Background: To demonstrate the tobacco industry rationale behind the "Spanish model" on non-smokers' protection in hospitality venues and the impact it had on some European and Latin American countries between 2006 and 2011.
Methods: Tobacco industry documents research triangulated against news and media reports.
Results: As an alternative to the successful implementation of 100% smoke-free policies, several European and Latin American countries introduced partial smoking bans based on the so-called "Spanish model", a legal framework widely advocated by parts of the hospitality industry with striking similarities to "accommodation programmes" promoted by the tobacco industry in the late 1990s. These developments started with the implementation of the Spanish tobacco control law (Ley 28/2005) in 2006 and have increased since then.
Conclusion: The Spanish experience demonstrates that partial smoking bans often resemble tobacco industry strategies and are used to spread a failed approach on international level. Researchers, advocates and policy makers should be aware of this ineffective policy.