The island of La Graciosa is located in the archipelago of the Canary Islands. It is a small island with only 700 inhabitants. La Graciosa is not paved and is energy self-sufficient. It is a tourist enclave with a high environmental content. The government of the island depends on the City Council of Teguise, on the island of Tenerife. In June 2021, he launched the “La Graciosa sin humo” campaign, which is summarized as follows:
The Teguise City Council, with the collaboration of its inhabitants, their companies, associations, visitors, and with the support of Philip Morris International, wants to make the island the first Spanish territory to receive the ‘SMOKE-FREE CULTURE’ CERTIFICATION. A certificate that has been developed by TÜV AUSTRIA, a multinational that declares that it has developed the protocol for granting the certification independently. However, it is striking that in its document indicating the certification «Smoke-Free Culture» makes it very clear, in section 4, entitled «Smoke-Free Culture, changing to Smoke-Free alternatives», that the organization that receives the certification «It will facilitate the knowledge of smoke-free products for those smokers who consciously decide to continue smoking.» Coincidentally, Philip Morris, a tobacco company collaborating with this campaign, has long been immersed in an aggressive campaign to promote its heated tobacco products (“smokeless” products), alluding to its theory of «harm reduction» with which the majority does not agree. part of the scientific community dedicated to tobacco control.
The campaign can be explained as follows: PMI covers the expenses of the campaign and actions necessary for the municipality of Teguise to achieve certification, as well as the amount of the TÜV Austria certification, in exchange for the City Council’s actions being include reporting on other forms of tobacco and nicotine consumption, alternatives to cigarettes, thus serving to promote the  version of PMI of “A Smoke-Free Future”, which seeks that cigarette smokers become consumers of their heated tobacco product (IQOS) and, incidentally, wash your image.
When this campaign reached the ears of the public health community in Spain and around the world, in July 2021, it unanimously condemned through the media and social networks the fact that the city council will collaborate with the tobacco industry against article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control that Spain ratified in 2005. This article refers to the interference of the tobacco industry in public health policies that attempt to defend the health of citizens against to the commercial interests of the tobacco industry. The article explicitly prohibits the sponsorship or participation of the tobacco industry in actions organized by public bodies of the signatory countries of the Convention. Faced with the commotion, the councilors of the opposition of the Teguise city council, who had supported the initiative in the first place, rectified once they were aware that it is not legitimate to «put into the hands of a tobacco company a campaign presumably to fight it, when everyone knows that lives precisely from its promotion and sale «, so they requested that the agreement be terminated. The proposal was taken to the plenary session of the city council and was rejected by a single vote. Despite the extraordinary rarity that the councilors of PP, PSOE and Podemos will vote against, the initiative went ahead 11 against 10, with the only support of the Canary Islands Coalition.
As a society, we cannot allow PMI to interfere in public health policies at the local level in Spain, to use Spanish communities to whitewash its image and also to seize slogans that are only legitimate in the mouth of the public health community. Therefore, it is imperative that this agreement ends as soon as possible. For this, 151 health and human rights organizations from around the world have come together to ask the Teguise city council, the Spanish Ministry of Health and the Government of Spain that this agreement ends immediately on the island of La Graciosa.
In response to this request, the Ministry of Health has contacted the Teguise City Council to remind it “that these alternatives referred to are not supported by the scientific evidence currently available and, furthermore, they are contrary to the document“ Products of tobacco and related: Implication of its consumption in public health ”that reflects the Agreement reached by the Ministry with the autonomous communities within the Public Health Commission of the Interterritorial Council of the National Health System. The same document sets out the health risks associated with the use or exposure to aerosols emitted by this type of product, along with the recommendation not to consume them. This position has been confirmed in the reports published in this regard by the Ministry, as well as by the World Health Organization”.
Update (December 3, 2021): Nofumadores.org has received a notification from the Mayor of Teguise confirming the closure of the «La Graciosa sin humo» website.
THE SMOKE-FREE CULTURE CERTIFICATION
The requirements to achieve the ‘SMOKE-FREE CULTURE’ certification from TÜV AUSTRIA could have been suggested by the tobacco industry, even by Phillip Morris itself, to continue to maintain its economic interests, since the evaluation criteria used by said certification are aligned with the strategy and slogans that the tobacco industry has been promoting for decades: “improve relations between smokers and non-smokers”, “more harmonious environment and mutual respect”, in addition to establishing zones for smoking and for the use of products No combustion, so this helps PMI strengthen its vision of “A Smoke Free Future” (not tobacco free or nicotine free) as a strategy to promote and sell its “smoke free” heated tobacco product.
On the other hand, the main objective of the «Smoke-Free Culture» protocol is to certify that an organization has measures in place to plan, support, apply, monitor and continuously improve a set of actions aimed at guaranteeing the aforementioned vision. But having measures does not necessarily mean that such measures are used or implemented.
From the point of view of the public health community, it could be affirmed that the Smoke-Free Culture certification does not provide any progress with respect to the legislation in force in Spain on the prevention of smoking, and that it does not resolve in terms of public health the The problem of smoking, nor the serious environmental problem caused by both cigarette butts and the waste from heated tobacco cigarettes and liquid cartridges from electronic cigarettes.
The Spanish Ministry of Health also «has contacted the company TÜV Austria, collaborator of this initiative and responsible for the certification protocol» Smoke-Free Culture «obtained by the island, indicating that the referred protocol is not in» compliance with the guidelines of the competent Ministry of Health «as reflected in an erroneous way on its website at the beginning»; so the company had to remove these statements from its website.
For their part, the lawyers of TÜV Austria have sued our Austrian colleagues from the «Austrian Council on Smoking and Health», also signatories of the international campaign, to remove from their website some statements explaining that the Smoke-free culture certification of La Graciosa was issued at the request of Philip Morris and that TÜV Austria was described as a collaborator of the tobacco company and the Foundation «for a Smoke-free World». The lawyers of TÜV Austria accuse them of damaging their image by having published these statements, and demanded that they remove them from their website, as well as the payment of € 1,200 for shipping costs of said letter (spanish and english tranlationof the letter).
Nofumadores.org has received a similar letter from the lawyers at TÜV Austria, threatening legal action if we do not remove the information about the overlap between PMI campaigns on a «smoke-free future» and the certification requirements. «Smoke-free» from TÜV Austria. Nofumadores.org has no evidence that PMI has participated in the drafting of the certification requirements, or that it has any commercial relationship with TÜV Austria, (beyond what is contained in the contract signed between the city of Teguise and PMI in which the tobacco company undertakes to pay TÜV AUSTRIA the amount for the certification process) and therefore has not made such statements. However, the similarities between PMI’s version of a «smoke-free future» and TÜV Austria’s «Smoke-free» certification are undeniable, regardless of the cause of the similarities.
December 8th, 2021: answer from Nofumadors.org to TÜV AUSTRIA’s lawyer