By Lauren Rearick
Beverly Hills, California, is about to undergo a major change. Beginning in 2021, many stores in the city within the greater Los Angeles county will no longer carry tobacco products. This is the first time a city in the United States has banned the sale of tobacco products — which are defined as cigarettes, cigars, dissolvable products, electronic cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and water pipes — CNN reports.
During a meeting on Tuesday, June 4, the Beverly Hills City Council voted unanimously in favor of the ban, USA Today reported. Under the ruling, establishments including gas stations, convenience stores, and pharmacies will no longer be permitted to sell tobacco products; cigar lounges will still be permitted to carry the items, and hotels can only offer tobacco products through room service, the Los Angeles Times said.
In a public statement, Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch said the measure reflects the “values” of the city. “We are a city that has taken the lead on restricting smoking and promoting public health,” he said. “Somebody has to be the first, so let it be us.”
The ban on the sale of tobacco products follows an October 3, 2017, measure from the city that banned smoking in many public areas; USA Today also notes the city banned the sale of flavored tobacco products in 2018. Beverly Hills was also the first city in the nation to ban smoking in restaurants, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Lili Bosse, a Beverly Hills city council member, told USA Today the measure isn’t meant to infringe on the rights of tobacco users: "People’s right to smoke is obviously something we hold sacred. What we’re saying is we’re not going to take part in selling it. They are not going to buy it in our city." She also pointed to a free hospital program that assists residents wishing to adjust their smoking habits.
The National Association of Tobacco Outlets told CNN the ban could negatively impact stores that rely on money from the sale of tobacco products. "Adults will simply drive to adjacent cities to purchase their preferred tobacco products," executive director Thomas Briant said. "It is likely that convenience stores in Beverly Hills will close because they rely on in-store tobacco sales for about one-third of their gross sales.” City council planned to review if the ban had any impact on tourism, and businesses believed to be negatively impacted by the ban would have the chance to apply for a permit through a hardship hearing.
Ruth Malone, a tobacco policy expert at UC San Francisco, told the Los Angeles Times that the move could inspire similar action throughout the United States. “Other communities have wanted to do this in the past, but have backed off because the tobacco industry organized major opposition,” she said. “The FDA can’t ban cigarettes. The only ones who can do it are state and local jurisdictions.”
Smoking rates have steadily declined since 2005, the Centers for Disease Control reports. As of 2017, 34.3 million American adults were reported smokers; that number is 20 percent less than the 45.1 million smokers recorded in 2005. The CDC notes that under previous studies, smoking bans implemented in workplaces led to an overall decrease in smoking and an increase in reports of users attempting to quit smoking.