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Beverly Hills will become the first U.S. city to ban tobacco sales, following the City Council’s unanimous approval of a new ordinance on June 4.
The ban will take effect on Jan. 1, 2021, with exemptions for the city’s three cigar lounges and hotels that sell tobacco only to guests.
“We are about to, in my opinion, make a difference for the future of our city, our community,” Beverly Hills City Councilwoman Lili Bosse said. “I think other cities will follow suit.”
Beverly Hills already has strict smoking regulations, including prohibitions on smoking on public rights of way or within 20 feet of open-air dining areas, unless actively passing by; a ban on smoking in multiunit housing; and a ban on flavored tobacco sales.
There are 28 retailers in Beverly Hills with tobacco and electronic cigarette retailer permits, according to city staff, including gas stations, grocery stores and convenience stores. Some of those store owners told the council during public comment at a meeting last month that they rely on tobacco sales. A hardship exemption included in the ordinance is based on factors such as how much of their revenue comes from tobacco and whether they can develop a plan to eventually phase out tobacco products.
There was no public comment on the tobacco sale ban during Tuesday’s meeting, but some of the city’s business owners and managers of businesses that sell tobacco have previously told the council that they wouldn’t know how to make up the lost revenue.
Scott McGuff, a district manager for Rite Aid, said the loss of companion sales, or items that customers buy when they stop in for a pack of cigarettes, would exacerbate the losses. Councilman Julian Gold, a medical doctor, said drugstore chain CVS, which elected to discontinue tobacco sales at all its locations, could be a model.
Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch mentioned the many local groups and organizations that have supported the city’s effort to pass the new law. Marc Carrel, president and CEO of BREATHE LA, an advocacy group located in the Miracle Mile, said the organization had been encouraging Beverly Hills council members and commissioners to move forward with the ban.
“I think what’s most important is that it establishes a precedent that a city has done this,” he said. “It’s important to establish that a city is willing to stand up and ban the sale of tobacco products.”
The new ordinance also ties into the BH Healthy City initiative, launched by Bosse during her first term as mayor in 2014.
“We’ve been a city based on leadership and vision,” she said, “and I feel really proud of us as a community.”
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