Beverly Hills could become 1st city to ban sale of tobacco products

Beverly Hills could become the first city in the United States to ban the sale of tobacco products.

The Beverly Hills City Council is set to vote on Tuesday evening on an ordinance that would ban the sale of cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products at all retail locations within the tony Southern California city, including gas stations, convenience stores, pharmacies and newsstands.

Several high-end cigar lounges would be exempt from the rule as would hotels provided they sell tobacco products to guests through concierge services.

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Logan Phillippo, the policy and management analyst for Beverly Hills, sent a report to the council earlier this 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.”

Along with the three cigar lounges, there currently are 25 other permits in the city for the sale of tobacco products, including at grocery stores, gas stations, hotels and convenience stores.

The City Council will hear the first reading of the ordinance and take a formal vote on Tuesday, with the second reading and final vote expected to take place in early June. If passed, the ordinance will be reviewed by the council in three years.

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.

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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.