Beverly Hills City Council recommends prohibiting sale of tobacco products

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (KABC) -- If you smoke, it might not be long before you realize something's changed in Beverly Hills. The Beverly Hills City Council Tuesday night supported a draft ordinance that would prohibit the sale of tobacco products in the city starting Jan. 1, 2021.

The city has already banned smoking in many places, including public right-of-ways and within 20 feet of open-air dining areas. Now, it is ready to stop sales altogether.

Giuseppe Franco, whose been smoking since he was 19, says he doesn't condone the tobacco habit.

"If you want to smoke, you smoke, if you don't want to smoke you don't. It's not good. I have a daughter, and I tell her not to smoke and she doesn't," he said.

He does emphasize that what the city of Beverly Hills is doing doesn't make sense to him.

"You don't think people are going to drive 13 minutes away and buy cigarettes somewhere else? So, you're hurting businesses in Beverly Hills," he added.

Franco opened his hair salon about 40 years ago. He literally works steps from Nazareth's Fine Cigars, which threw open its doors a few years after Franco did.

The shop's owner said he didn't feel like he could talk to Eyewitness News on camera to defend his business. He's just one of about 30 businesses which would be affected by the change.

Eyewitness News spoke to city spokesman Keith Sterling, who says neighbors brought them the idea of getting tobacco out of their city.

"When they talk to constituents, and they hear from most folks, they are concerned about smoke, and they're fine with it being restricted," Sterling said.

Back in early February, the city council directed the Health and Safety Commission to study and make their own recommendation.

"We've had hundreds of people from across the city -- business owners, residents -- show up and express their concern on both sides of the issue," Sterling added.

Franco, who still keeps a public ash tray just outside his salon's door, says the city is only hurting business owners like himself earning an honest living.

"So you can buy alcohol but you can't buy cigarettes? Not a good idea," he said.

The move forward with the ban on the sale of tobacco got unanimous approval by the city council late Tuesday night, making Beverly Hills the first city in the nation to enact such a ban.

Cigar lounges will be exempt and hotels will also be able to sell tobacco through concierge services.

"This reflects the values of our community," said Mayor John Mirisch. "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."

First reading of the ordinance and formal council vote will take place on May 21 with a second reading and final vote expected on June 4.
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