Beverly Hills poised to outlaw all tobacco sales

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Posh Beverly Hills is poised to outlaw the sale of all tobacco products -- except at cigar lounges where the rich and famous like Arnold Schwarzenegger are assured they can keep puffing away.

Under the proposed ordinance, described as the first of its kind in the nation, the sale of tobacco products would be banned starting in January 2021. An initial vote on the measure is scheduled for late Tuesday, with a final vote is set for June 4.

Beverly Hills already has strict rules that outlaw smoking on sidewalks or in multi-unit housing.
The new law would apply to the sale of cigarettes, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco and electronic cigarettes at gas stations, pharmacies, convenience stores and other retailers.

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

However three cigar lounges whose customers include celebrities and local elites would be exempt from the ban.

Fearing that their beloved parlors could go up in smoke because of the new law, aficionados in recent months flooded the Beverly Hills Health and Safety Commission with letters urging that the clubs be exempt.

Rigoberto Fernandez, owner of the Buena Vista Cigar Club, wrote that a radical ban would be devastating for his family and drive him out of business.

Hollywood star and former state governor Schwarzenegger wrote in support of the exclusive Grand Havana Room, which he called a “home away from home,” where community members ranging from politicians to artists and rabbis are known to gather.

Owner Rigo Fernandez poses for photos smoking a cigar in his Buena Vista Cigar Club on May 10, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (AFP)
Owner Rigo Fernandez poses for photos smoking a cigar in his Buena Vista Cigar Club on May 10, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (AFP)

“It is unthinkable that the city might adopt a policy that would intentionally or unintentionally cause the closure of this character-defining institution, and it should not do so,” Schwarzenegger wrote.

Even the chairman of cardiac surgery at the University of California, Los Angeles has chimed in, saying he visits the Grand Havana Room several times a week to kick back and have a cigar.

“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,” wrote Richard Shemin.

The proposed ordinance has been met with mixed reactions, with some business owners saying it would turn away well-heeled tourists while health advocates insisting that it is the right thing to do.

City officials said they also expect legal challenges from tobacco companies who stand to lose in sales.

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