California city may become first in US to ban retail tobacco sales, except in posh cigar lounges

The city of Beverly Hills, California, is poised to become the first city in the U.S. to ban the sale of tobacco products with an exception that would allow posh cigar lounges to remain in business.

The Beverly Hills City Council passed on Tuesday an initial vote that would prohibit the sale of cigarettes, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, and electronic cigarettes at virtually all retailers, the Daily Wire reported.

"We are a city that has taken the lead on restricting smoking and promoting public health," Mayor John Mirisch told the Daily Mail in a statement. "Somebody has to be first, so let it be us."

A final vote is expected June 4. If approved, the ban would take effect in January 2021.

What's the story on the cigar lounges?

Hundreds of the rich and famous, including former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, flooded the city with letters and attended council meetings where they urged the city to spare their fancy cigar lounges from the ban.

Apparently, their efforts paid off since the ordinance would provide exemptions for the three high-end registered cigar lounges, including the Grand Havana Room where Schwarzenegger is a regular, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"The Grand Havana Room, which I have been a member of since its inception, provides a treasured home away from home," Schwarzenegger reportedly wrote in a letter to the city council. "It is unthinkable that the city might adopt a policy that would intentionally or unintentionally cause the closure of this character-defining institution."

Dr. Richard Shemin, chairman of cardiac surgery at UCLA, said that he supported the cigar lounge exemption.

"I know very well the adverse effects on health, that's why I'm supportive of the general ban," he wrote, according to the LA Times. "However, I think adults in private clubs who make personal choices should be allowed to do so.

"At the end of a busy (day) doing cardiac surgery, I go to the Grand Havana Room to relax and enjoy the company of friends," Shemin added.

Hotels would also be permitted to sell tobacco products through concierge services.

What else?

Beverly Hills banned smoking in public places and inside restaurants more than 30 years ago. In 2007, the city added outdoor venues to the list.

Current laws prohibit smoking inside apartments or condominiums, at farmer's markets, inside parked cars, or while standing on the sidewalk, among others.
City spokesman Keith Sterling told the LA Times that city leaders expect push back from tobacco companies.

"We expect to hear from tobacco companies," Sterling said. "Even if this passes, we'll continue to hear from them."
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