Stricter Smoking Ban Debated for Beverly Hills

While smoking in Beverly Hills is illegal in most public settings, stricter modifications to the current smoking regulations are being reviewed. In 2017, the Beverly Hills City Council adopted Ordinance 17-O-2730 that prohibits smoking in multi-unit housing, as well as within 20 feet of open-air dining and the public right-of-way, with one exception: “smoking will be allowed if, and only if, the smoker is actively traveling on the public right of way.” At the Jan. 31 Health and Safety Commission Liaison Committee meeting, officials considered removing the amendment that permits smoking while active. However, with concerns around enforcement and from the business community, it’s unclear whether new legislation will be drafted. The item comes at the request of Councilmember John Mirisch who, during the adoption of the fiscal year 2022-2023 City Council Priorities, proposed and received support to explore a smoking ban, without exceptions.

The Beverly Hills Conference and Visitors Bureau (CVB), the Rodeo Drive Committee and the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce (Chamber) mutually opposed the complete ban on smoking. Outlined in a joint letter submitted as public comment, the groups fear that such a ban on smoking would be detrimental to tourism in the city. “While from a health perspective, we completely understand and admire the city’s position in trying to move this forward, we are still feeling much of the effects from the pandemic and our international market is not expected to recover till 2025,” said Julie Wagner, Chief Executive Officer of the CVB.

“As a whole, we need to really focus on reengaging and rebuilding our tourism back to the city and this is something that’s important to them,” said the Chamber’s Economic Development Manager, Greg Sefain, regarding smoking.

Under the current smoking ordinance, park rangers and ambassadors do what’s called soft enforcement. “So, when they see someone smoking in our parks, when they see somebody just standing still and smoking on the sidewalk, they go up and they educate people on what our smoking rules are here in the city,” said Cindy Owens, a policy and management analyst with the city. The city’s code compliance officers, who are charged with enforcing and issuing citations, cited two people for being in violation of the city’s smoking ordinance from October to December of 2022. “Our concern with this is because we are such a reactive model, would we be able to sufficiently enforce it to where it would have an impact?” said Owens regarding stricter modifications. For an officer to cite someone for smoking, that person must be directly observed in violation.

“More than anything I have real concerns about passing laws we can’t enforce,” Vice Mayor Julian Gold said. “And as we sit here today, I’m not convinced that we’ve done a great job of enforcing what we’ve got.” Regarding the two recent smoking citations, Gold called the number “trivial” in comparison to the “actual amount of smoking that goes on.”

Staff were directed to conduct outreach and explore the economic impact and potential unintended consequences that may result should the ordinance be tightened in both residential and commercial areas. Should restrictions be increased regarding smoking on public walkways, staff expressed concerns that tenants may return to smoking inside.

“Part of what we need to do as well is to continue the outreach, to let people know what we do have in the books, and then enforce it,” Mayor Bosse said. “I think the goal is whatever we have in place is enforceable.”

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