Beverly Hills and Manhattan Beach, California Make History for Public Health
Their Ordinances to Ban the Sale of Commercial Tobacco are in Effect Today
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SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 5, 2020 – On January 1st, two small cities in California made giant strides for public health by removing tobacco products from all store shelves. Beverly Hills and Manhattan Beach, both in the Los Angeles area, became the only jurisdictions in the U.S. to eliminate the sale of commercial tobacco, although other jurisdictions are seriously considering it. Both cities included a phase-out period to allow retailers to adjust and to help people who smoke to quit.
The Beverly Hills City Council, the first to pass its ordinance, fully understood the importance of its move. “Somebody’s got to be first, so let it be us,” said then-Mayor, current Councilmember John Mirisch, who first proposed the concept in 2017 when debating the banning of flavorings in tobacco products. Mr. Mirisch recently joined the Board of Trustees of the advocacy group Action on Smoking & Health (ASH), which coordinates Project Sunset, an effort to phase out tobacco sales worldwide.
“Cigarettes have become so normalized that to some this might seem like a drastic step,” said Chris Bostic, ASH Policy Director. “But if another product emerged tomorrow that was highly addictive and killed when used as intended, of course we’d ban its sale. We’d probably charge the people who marketed it with manslaughter too.”
Beverly Hills and Manhattan Beach are the first in the U.S. to pass legislation, but the idea of eliminating tobacco sales is not new. When Surgeon General Luther Terry released the landmark report connecting tobacco use to death and disease in 1964, he was convinced that the sale of cigarettes would be outlawed, holding the press conference on a Saturday to lessen the impact on the stock market.
The concept has been gaining traction more recently, within the public health community and more broadly. The Danish Institute for Human Rights, after concluding a human rights assessment of Philip Morris International in 2017, concluded that “there can be no doubt that the production and marketing of tobacco is irreconcilable with the human right to health. For the tobacco industry, the UNGPs [United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights] therefore require the cessation of the production and marketing of tobacco.” At its last world conference, the global tobacco control community recognized the importance of envisioning an end to the tobacco epidemic, adopting The Cape Town Declaration on Human Rights and a Tobacco-Free World.
The tobacco industry, which has repeatedly promised over the years to stop selling tobacco if it was ever shown to be harmful, has said little about the initiatives to phase out tobacco sales. Both Beverly Hills and Manhattan Beach are fully aware of the threat of industry litigation. The tobacco industry has launched hundreds of lawsuits against tobacco control initiatives, which they rarely win but file anyway in order to impose legal costs on cities and states.
Today, we are honored to see public health prevail.
ACTION ON SMOKING AND HEALTH
Founded in 1967, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is America’s oldest anti-tobacco organization, dedicated to a world with ZERO tobacco deaths. Because tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, ASH supports bold solutions proportionate to the magnitude of the problem. https://ash.org