Beverly Hills has become the first city in the nation to ban nearly all tobacco sales within its borders. The Beverly Hills City Council voted unanimously to ban the sale of cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, and e-cigarettes at gas stations, pharmacies, convenience stores, or by grocers. The ban is set to take effect beginning in 2021.
The city is taking this action to preserve its image as a healthy city. It is already illegal to smoke almost everywhere in Beverly Hills, including in apartment buildings, in parks, and while standing on the sidewalk. The newly passed ordinance reads: “Allowing tobacco products to be sold in the city increases access to these harmful and dangerous products and does not promote the city’s image as a healthy city.”
The ban includes exemptions for hotels and three local cigar lounges. The hotel exemption was made to accommodate tourists, but they’ll still have to smoke outdoors. Hotels will also be able to sell tobacco products, but only through room service to ensure that only guests are able to purchase them.
Local business owners opposed the measure, arguing that it was unfair to businesses that depended on the sales for revenue. Thomas Briant, executive director of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets, said in an interview that the ordinance will force consumers to buy their tobacco products in neighboring towns and cities, where they will also purchase their gasoline, beverages and snacks. He said, “When you remove those in-store sales, the profitability is no longer there. We believe this will cause convenience stores in Beverly Hills to layoff employees and likely close their doors.”
Public health advocates claim that the benefits to public health from the ban outweigh the negative impact on retail sales. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, illnesses related to smoking incur costs of more than $300 billion annually. About $170 billion of that amount is spent on direct medical care.