For years, various activists have been promoting tobacco control in Mexico and in Mexico City. In particular, the knowledge, expertise and political connections of representatives from NGOs organizations – including the Inter- American Heart Foundation (FIC), the Alliance for Tobacco Control (ACTA) and the Mexican Council Against Tobacco (CMCT) – played an important role in supporting the promotion and adoption of a comprehensive smoke-free law in Mexico DF. The World Lung Foundation provided expertise and support in the development of media campaigns to advance the smoke-free agenda. Complementing the work of NGOs was the National Institute for Public Health [INSP], a government agency under the federal Health Secretariat. INSP played a vital role in supporting the legislation and in coordinating and carrying out research studies.
Although all of these groups had been active in the past, most had been operating primarily with volunteers and therefore their impact was limited. Just prior to the campaign, some organizations had begun to receive significant funding from the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use. This funding enabled paid staff and operational budgets for research, education and media, and greatly strengthened the capacity of tobacco advocates and their allies to act effectively.
To strengthen and coordinate their actions in support of the law, these activists and others came together under the umbrella of the CMCT. This enabled them to discuss joint strategies and actions and facilitated lobbying. To support the lobbying agenda, a public relations agency, with financial backing from Pfizer, was commissioned to lobby the Assembly in Mexico City, as well as the National Congress.
The speed with which the Mexico DF law emerged and its rapid adoption meant that tobacco advocates had to react quickly to the opportunity that presented itself. They coordinated their campaign, provided technical information, were visible in media campaigns, carried out studies and lobbied and worked closely with local politicians who were pushing for smokefree legislation.
Their specific involvement included:
- offering support, advice and guidance to politicians who were promoting and supporting the smoke-free law;
- actively organizing and participating in press conferences and utilizing massmedia to support the agenda;
- organizing street campaigns and the distribution of leaflets, posters, banners and brochures;
- participating in key research agendas.
A key part of the NGOs’s strategy was to create the “image” – particularly to the Legislative Assembly and its members – of an organized coalition with a common objective. By working together and combining their tobacco control and legal expertise under the umbrella of CMCT, legislators and the media perceived that there was a coordinated group of activists. As a result, they became well-positioned to lobby, regularly engage with key politicians and to provide and promote arguments to support the law. 4.4.7 Building on their success at DF level, NGOs have also pushed for effective and comprehensive smoke-free laws at the federal level. Working to strengthen the General Health Law, they have attempted to secure restrictions and requirements within the regulations that would make it very difficult to create smoking rooms at establishments – even if the law, in principle, permits them.