Beverly Hills on Tuesday became the first city in the country to end the sale of most tobacco products within its borders after the city council voted unanimously to ban the sale of cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes and other tobacco items beginning in 2021.
The ban covers sales at gas stations and pharmacies as well as convenience and grocery stores. However, it exempts hotels and several plush cigar lounges in the wealthy and glamorous Los Angeles suburb.
The hotel exemption was designed to accommodate tourists, who could have a concierge deliver their smokes — although they'd have to smoke them outside – and the four posh cigar lounges that have become refuges for the city’s affluent puffers.
Logan Phillippo, the policy and management analyst for Beverly Hills, sent a report to the council last month outlining how the ban would be implemented. The report noted that while there are no state or federal laws barring Beverly Hills from carrying out the ban on tobacco products, the city should expect to face legal challenges.
“Courts have not yet reviewed citywide bans on tobacco sales, however, so there is still uncertainty as to whether a court would uphold this type of ban if challenged,” the report states. “Given that no other City in the United States has adopted a comprehensive ban on all tobacco products, the City is likely to face legal challenges.”
Gas station owners opposed the measure, saying it unfairly targeted their businesses and might force employee layoffs, while public health advocates argued that the cost is higher in terms of health.
Beverly Hills' ordinance comes as tobacco and vaping products have come into the crosshairs of numerous state governments as well as Congress -- with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introducing legislation on Monday that would raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21.
The legislation, which was co-sponsored by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., comes as the use of e-cigarettes and vaping products has skyrocketed among minors across the country. While e-cigarettes -- like the popular Juul -- do not contain tobacco, they do have the addictive substance nicotine and are marketed in a variety of flavors that critics say are meant to appeal to young people.
“We’re in the middle of a national health epidemic,” McConnell said during a speech on the Senate floor. “Youth vaping is a public health crisis.”
Currently, 14 states and the District of Columbia have made 21 the legal age to buy tobacco products, with eight states this year passing their own legislation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.