Nearly six months after Beverly Hills made headlines with its prohibitions against smoking and tobacco products, the City’s Ambassadors continue to educate hundreds of people each month on the rules that govern the City.
Despite the City’s recent efforts to increase educational outreach via signage, with over 100 new signs across the business district alerting people to the fact that there’s no vaping or smoking in most of Beverly Hills, the number of in-person “contacts” made by BH Ambassadors actually increased by 20 percent from the 597 contacts made in October 2018. Last month, BH Ambassadors made 714 contacts in the business district, primarily related to traditional cigarettes, according to Beverly Hills Management Analyst Michael George.
“I think the most important factor between last October and now is that we have all of these signs up,” Michael said at this week’s Health and Safety Commission meeting, noting that the City now has access to a year’s worth of data for the first time and thus can begin to do year-on-year comparisons.
Missing from the contact data, however, is a notation about whether the person resides in Beverly Hills.
“I still believe that the bulk of the people who are violators are … tourists, workers, etc.,” said Commissioner Myra Demeter. “We have a very small smoking population here.”
When the Ambassadors observe someone violating the smoking ordinance in three or more instances, the Ambassadors refer the file to Code Enforcement. As of Oct. 23, 21 cases had been referred and one citation had been issued. There is also a residential component where residents can similarly report violations to Code Enforcement without the use of Ambassadors. But the education piece and continuing to treat Beverly Hills visitors with respect remains key.
Following the initial installation of 25 signs this past August, 103 additional signs were installed throughout the business district with the aim of educating people on the City’s current smoking regulations.
Residents can expect to be reminded that smoking in town is hugely restrictive with a new round of targeted mailers slated to go out in early 2019. Anti-smoking banners are also poised to replace the BOLD holiday banners once the season ends.
Beyond informing people of the rules that govern smoking in Beverly Hills, such as that people must be actively walking while smoking and cannot smoke in a parked car, one of the challenges in educating the public at large is helping people understand that vaping is just another form of smoking; and in fact one with its own set of negative consequences.
“There are people who vape, who do not think they’re smoking,” said Health and Safety Commissioner Cathy Baker.
“Vaping products for the most part do contain the highly addictive nicotine, as well as other chemicals which when heated become very toxic to the human body and to others breathing the second hand smoke,” she added.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health continues to issue warnings about the use of vaping and e-cigarette devices as potentially harmful to proper lung function. As of Oct. 3, 2019, there have been a total of 21 reported cases of serious vaping-associated pulmonary injury and one death associated with e-cigarettes in L.A. County. Approximately two-thirds of those cases reported are in individuals age 25 and younger. In fact, one of the reasons the City Council cited when passing last year’s flavored tobacco ban was its intent to restrict the unscrupulous marketing of flavors, like bubble gum, to young people.
At Monday’s Health and Safety Commission meeting, Board of Education Member Rachelle Marcus voiced her concern about the vaping epidemic in local schools, characterizing it as “the horrible situation that seems to be getting worse.”
“It’s something that is starting to trickle down and getting into the lower grades, which is very, very disturbing,” she added.
The City’s ban on flavored tobacco products became effective on Dec. 21 last year. It followed 2017’s smoking prohibition in multi-family housing, the public rights-of-way, and within 20 feet from open air dining, which went into effect as of Jan. 1, 2019. Smoking has long been banned in public areas, beginning with the 1999 no smoking policy in City parks and later by 2007’s no smoking policy in public and private open-air dining areas and within five feet of those dining areas. And the City continues to look for more avenues to inspire residents and workers to kick the habit entirely.
Last November the City launched a free-of-charge smoking cessation program hosted by Cedars-Sinai, which has been used by a total of eight patients. The City is currently looking to partner with the American Lung Association to offer classes through the Parks and Recreation Department next year.
The Commission also considered potentially hiring a third Ambassador to focus on educating people smoking near outdoor dining areas during the evening hours for at least three months.