Smoke-free Destinations

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Key Points

  • PMI sponsors so-called “smoke-free” policies at holiday destinations which appear to encourage tourists and locals to stop smoking cigarettes, while heavily promoting its heated tobacco product IQOS.
  • This circumvents regulations on industry involvement in policy development and the advertising of tobacco products

Background

As part of its claimed movement towards a “smoke-free future”, Philip Morris International (PMI) have developed so-called “smoke-free destinations”. PMI say that these destinations must have a Smoke Free Culture certification from the organisation TUV Austria. This company offers “integrated safety, quality, environmental and technical resource management”.1 In order to obtain this certification, locations must provide space for education about, and use of, its “smoke-free products”, such as its heated tobacco product (HTP) IQOS.2

These “smoke-free” destinations are typical holiday destinations, such as the Greek, Spanish and Canary Islands.

PMI’s “smoke-free” strategy has been criticised as:

Locations

Astypalea, Greece

In September 2019, PMI announced Astypalea, Greece, as “the world’s first smoke-free island”. Smoking cigarettes in some key tourist areas and indoors was banned. PMI said that those who would not stop smoking cigarettes would be informed of alternative options.6 The island received a Smoke-Free Culture certification from TUV Austria for its campaign to encourage either “quitting” cigarettes or switching to alternatives such as PMI’s HTP IQOS.2

In a promotional video about Astypalea, PMI said “both locals and visitors alike are encouraged to quit completely or if they don’t, change to smoke-free alternatives”.7 In Astypalea, hotels created spaces for using NGPs, converted from old smoking rooms, and provided trial kits for NGPs such as PMI’s HTP IQOS.8 The deputy mayor of Astypalea said “we encourage people to move away to healthier alternatives”.9

However, the health impacts of HTPs such as IQOS are unclear. Some evidence indicates that most IQOS users continue to smoke cigarettes (see the page on IQOS Use, “Switching” and “Quitting”: The Evidence).

Canary Islands, Spain

In July 2019, the Plaza del Príncipe in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, held an event to introduce an “IQOS terrace”. The event featured live music, a photoshoot and food that apparently reflected the “essence of IQOS”.10

In March 2020, PMI offered support to businesses on the island of El Hierro, Tenerife, to obtain the Smoke-Free Culture certification.11 This followed a talk given by a PMI representative at an event for local businesses.12

In February 2021, the Smoke Free Culture certification from TUV Austria was awarded to the Canary Islands at a meeting between the director general of PMI in the Canary Islands, the president of the Federation of Hospitality and Tourism Entrepreneurs of Las Palmas, the director of operations of the Gloria Thalasso & Hotels group, and the president of the Real Club Náutico de Gran Canaria.13

In June 2021, the Teguise City Council of the island of La Graciosa launched a campaign in collaboration with PMI called ‘La Graciosa sin humo’ [La Graciosa without smoke], which aimed to reduce both the amount of cigarette smoke by promoting alternative products, and to reduce cigarette litter.14 It aimed to obtain the Smoke-Free Culture certification from TUV Austria.15 The campaign included “smoke-free space” signs which resembled large cigarettes, in areas including a football field (see Image 1) and a children’s park (see Image 2). The campaign website (lagraciosasinhumo.com) closed in December 2021.1617

Image 1. A “smoke-free space” sign, resembling a large cigarette, at a football field as part of the ‘La Graciosa sin humo’ campaign (source: lagraciosasinhumo.com).

Image 2: A “smoke-free space” sign, resembling a large cigarette, at a children’s park as part of the ‘La Graciosa sin humo’ campaign (source: lagraciosasinhumo.com).

Reactions

In response to the “La Graciosa Sin Humo” campaign, The Las Palmas Medical Association reported it to the Prosecutor’s Office because it does not comply with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) guidelines on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship.18 In June 2021, public health officials in the Canary Islands urged citizens to reject the “La Graciosa Sin Humo” campaign, due to its industry involvement and promotion of IQOS.192021 In September 2021, 150 organisations wrote a petition calling for the removal of the agreement between the City Council of Teguise in La Graciosa and PMI.22

In response to the public health community’s concerns, the director of Philip Morris Canarias rejected the characterisation of the campaign as advertising, but claimed instead that it raises awareness of harms from cigarettes.23 Despite the public health petition, in July 2021, the City Council of Teguise voted against withdrawing the campaign.24

In September 2021, the Ministry of Health of La Graciosa requested that TUV Austria stop incorrectly indicating that the Ministry of Health endorses the campaign.25 TUV Austria has since threatened two organisations which opposed the PMI initiative with legal action. No Fumadores and the National Committee for the Prevention of Smoking were told they carried information which damaged the reputation of TUV Austria.2627

Undermining regulation

Policy interference

Article 5.3 of the WHO’s FCTC bans the involvement of tobacco companies in the development and implementation of public health policies. A “smoke-free” policy sponsored by a tobacco company (PMI) represents tobacco industry interference in policy.28

Advertising

Article 13 of the WHO’s FCTC bans both direct and indirect advertising of tobacco products. This is circumvented by the promotion of IQOS at holiday destinations.

Corporate social responsibility

Article 5.3 of the WHO’s FCTC bans CSR by tobacco companies, as this is a form of marketing to promote their company image and products. PMI is using CSR to promote its “smoke-free” campaign alongside Astypalea’s tourism rebrand towards “well-being, quality and pureness of life”.29 A new tourism campaign was launched called “Astypalea: Τhe Aegean Energy Spring”, which aims to promote “positive energy” via its tourist destinations, alongside the smoke-free campaign.30 PMI has also highlighted the environmental benefits gained from reduced cigarette litter6, yet has not acknowledged itself as the cause of the vast environmental harms from cigarette filters. It has also organised beach cleaning events and provided materials with the PMI logo (see Image 3).

Image 3. Philip Morris International-branded litter picking equipment (source: lagraciosasinhumo.com).

Targeting the travel industry

PMI used its promotion of smoke-free destinations to invite a writer of a lifestyle blog covering travel to visit Astypalea. In one of the hotels the writer stayed in, smoking cigarettes indoors was banned, but use of PMI’s IQOS was allowed and promoted. IQOS was promoted across the island, such as at hotels and beaches (see Images 4 and 5)31 (for more images, see here).

Image 4. IQOS promotion at a hotel room in Astypalea. (Source: The Yorkshire Gentleman).

Image 5. IQOS promotion at a beach in Astypalea. (Source: The Yorkshire Gentleman).

PMI’s ‘Smoke-free campaigns’

Since 2014, PMI has claimed to have ‘smoke-free’ objectives as part of its corporate agenda. This has coincided with the development and promotion of newer nicotine and tobacco products (notably its HTP IQOS), and the promotion of itself as a partner in solving the tobacco pandemic (see Philip Morris International’s “Smoke-Free” Campaigns for examples).

Targeting other leisure industries

The tobacco industry has previously targeted other leisure industries, such as hospitality and aviation, to circumvent indoor smoking bans. From the 1970s to the 1990s, tobacco companies promoted indoor smoking via hospitality industry groups that it had funded.32 Several tobacco companies created an organisation to investigate “indoor air quality” (since described by the U.S. Department of Justice as misleading), and sought support from flight attendants against smoking bans on flights.33 There is no suggestion of any impropriety between PMI and TUV Austria.

TobaccoTactics Resources

Philip Morris International

Heated Tobacco Products

Newer Nicotine and Tobacco Products: Philip Morris International

PMI’s IQOS: Use, “Switching” and “Quitting”

IQOS Use: “Switching” and “Quitting”: The Evidence

PMI Promotion of IQOS Using FDA MRTP Order

Harm Reduction

CSR Strategy

Cigarette Filters

Tobacco Control Research Group (TCRG) research

For a comprehensive list of all TCRG publications, including research that evaluates the impact of public health policy, go to TCRG publications.

References

  1. TUV Austria, Thinking Beyond, About us page, accessed January 2022
  2. abPhilip Morris International, Philip Morris International Celebrates the First Smoke-Free Culture Certified Island in the World, PMI website, October 7 2019, accessed January 2021
  3. World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Knowledge Hub for Article 5.3, Dangers of the “Unsmoke Campaign: Frequently Asked Questions, 2021
  4. M. Davies, B. Stockton, M. Chapman, T. Cave, The “Unsmoke” Screen: The Truth Behind PMI’s Cigarette-free Future, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 24 February 2020
  5. K. Evans-Reeves, A. Gilmore, Addiction at Any Cost. Philip Morris International Uncovered. 2021
  6. abPhilip Morris International, Welcome the world’s first smoke-free island Astypalea, PMI website, 18 September 2019, accessed January 2022
  7. Philip Morris International, Behind the scenes of the world’s first smoke-free island Astypalea, PMI website, 10 October 2019, accessed December 2021
  8. P. Davies, WTM 2018: Travel industry urged to adopt alternatives to smoking, Travel Weekly, 6 November 2019, accessed January 2022
  9. J. Malathronas, The Greek island that tourism forgot, The Telegraph, 18 July 2019, accessed July 2020
  10. IQOS inaugura una terraza sin humo en la Plaza del Príncipe, europapress, 20 July 2019, accessed January 2022
  11. Philip Morris apoya a las empresas para convertir El Hierro en una isla libre del humo de tabaco, europapress, 5 March 2020, accessed August 2019
  12. Philip Morris apoya a las empresas para tener una Isla sin humo de tabaco, El Hierro, 5 March 2020, accessed January 2022
  13. Philip Morris apoya en Canarias a los establecimientos comprometidos con el propósito de alcanzar un mundo sin humo, Canarias 7, 18 February 2021, accessed January 2022
  14. La Graciosa aspira a ser isla libre de humo con concienciación y sin llegar a la prohibición total, europapress, 17 June 2021, accessed January 2022
  15. La Graciosa Sin Humo, La Graciosa Sin Humo homepage, accessed January 2022
  16. No Fumadores, Intromisiones de la industria, La isla de la Graciosa, No Fumadores website, accessed February 2022
  17. No Fumadores, Letter from the Mayor of Teguise, No Fumadores website, accessed February 2022
  18. Sanidad pide a la empresa que “acredita” la campaña ‘La Graciosa Libre de Humo’ que no use el nombre del Ministerio,
    LAVOZDELANZAROTE, 30 September 2021, accessed January 2022
  19. Los médicos, en contra de que una multinacional del tabaco “ensucie” La Graciosa, Diario de Lanzarote, 21 June 2021, accessed January 2022
  20. Sefac solicita la retirada de la campaña ‘La Graciosa sin humo’, Diario Farma, 24 June 2021, accessed January 2022
  21. Polémica por una campaña sobre tabaquismo con La Graciosa como protagonista, el Diario, 23 June 2021, accessed January 2022
  22. 150 Organizations Worldwide Demand That The Island of La Graciosa Break Its Agreement With Philip Morris, ASH news page, 9 September 2020, accessed January 2022
  23. El director de Philip Morris Canarias a los medicos: “No pedimos fe, sino debate y discutir sobre los datos científicos”, europapress, 18 July 2021, accessed January 2022
  24. El gobierno de Teguise mantiene la campaña de ‘La Graciosa sin humo’, La Provincia, 2 July 2021, accessed January 2022
  25. Sanidad pide a la empresa que “acredita” la campaña ‘La Graciosa Libre de Humo’ que no use el nombre del Ministerio, La Voz, 30 September 2021, accessed January 2022
  26. Entidades contra el tabaquismo, amenazadas con “acciones judiciales” por sus denuncias contra la campaña ‘La Graciosa sin humos’, el Diario, 9 January 2022, accessed January 2022
  27. Amenazan con demandas a entidades contra el tabaquismo en isla de La Graciosa, COPE, 9 January 2022, accessed January 2022
  28. World Health Organization, Guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, WHO website, accessed January 2022
  29. Visit Astypalea, Astypalea website, 2021, accessed January 2022
  30. Astypalea First Greek Island Attempting to Go Smoke-free, Greek Travel Pages, 9 October 2018, accessed January 2022
  31. Astypalea – The World’s first smoke free island, The Yorkshire Gentleman, 17 October 2019, accessed January 2022
  32. J. V. Dearlove, S. A. Bialous, S. A. Glantz, Tobacco industry manipulation of the hospitality industry to maintain smoking in public places, Tobacco Control, 2002, 11(2): 94-104, doi:10.1136/tc.11.2.94
  33. P. Lopipero, L.A. Bero, Tobacco interests or the public interest: 20 years of industry strategies to undermine airline smoking restrictions, Tobacco Control, 2006, 15(4):323-332, doi:10.1136/tc.2006.016451
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