Beverly Hills Believed To Be First U.S. City To Ban Most Tobacco Sales

The wealthy California city's council voted unanimously to end tobacco sales but exempts hotels and plush cigar lounges.

The city council in Beverly Hills, California, voted unanimously Tuesday to end most tobacco sales in what officials say is the first such ban in the U.S.

The sale of tobacco products will be banned starting Jan. 1, 2021, but with some exceptions. Hotels can sell them to guests, and three existing cigar lounges can continue their business. There’s also a “hardship exemption provision” for retailers that can demonstrate undue distress, and a review of the ban’s impact on tourism in three years.

“We are a city that has taken the lead on restricting smoking and promoting public health. Somebody has to be first, so let it be us,” Mayor John Mirisch said in a May 7 press release.

Gas station owners in the 34,000-population city objected to the ban. John Poudar, owner of a Union 76, told a public hearing last month that the ban would hit 30% of his business, The Associated Press reported. Others accused city council of hypocrisy for allowing the expensive cigar lounges and plush hotels to continue sales but banning gas stations.

But public health advocates argued that the health benefits outweigh the business costs.

The ban comes amid nationwide efforts to restrict sales of tobacco products. San Francisco is poised to ban flavored tobacco and nicotine products, and a lawmaker in Hawaii proposed legislation that would effectively end cigarette sales in the state.

At the national level, legislation in the Senate would raise the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), in introducing the legislation, cited Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures that tobacco use is rising among America’s young people with e-cigarettes.