MB smoking ban

Rich Brennan smokes near the Manhattan Beach Pier from 2014. A ban on smoking tobacco or e-cigarettes in public is in effect.

(photo by Robert Casillas)

Manhattan Beach will likely ban all tobacco products soon—but not quite yet.

The City Council had an ordinance before it this week that would limit the sale of tobacco products, but postponed it, by a 4 to 1 vote, until early next year so staff can refine some specifics, mainly ensuring all tobacco products— cigarettes, cigars, chew—are banned. Councilwoman Suzanne Hadley voted no. The refined ordinance will go before the council in late January or early February.

The move to ban tobacco products comes amid a wave of other public agencies doing the same. In October, for example, Los Angeles County restricted the sale of flavored tobacco and began requiring sellers to obtain permits.

Manhattan Beach has been working toward the overall ban for years.

The city in 2008 banned smoking at the beach, parks and inside all public buildings, Councilman Richard Montgomery said. That prohibition expanded in 2014 to all public areas including streets and sidewalks. Then, in 2016, it required retailers to pay for annual permits to sell tobacco and electronic smoking devices, and banned selling flavored tobacco, besides mint flavors, in stores that allow customers under 21 years of age.

In November, Manhattan Beach expanded that ban, prohibiting sale of all flavored tobacco, including those previously exempt, and electronic smoking devices.

The potential new law will include cigars and smokeless tobacco consumption. If the law passes, tobacco retailers will have to deplete their inventories by Jan. 1, 2021, though they could apply for hardship extensions if more time is needed.

It's illegal to smoke or vape in Manhattan Beach's public right-of-way, said city management analyst Alexandria Latragna. A 2015 ordinance limited smoking in Manhattan Beach to:

  • Residences with no more than two units, except healthcare and childcare facilities;
  • 20% of a hotel or motel's guest rooms; and
  • Moving vehicles.

"We're not making smoking illegal," Hadley said. "People can still do it in their homes with their children around."

Business owners and tobacco representatives on Tuesday, Dec. 17, urged the council to consider keeping the current prohibitions as is, because of projected financial constraint. Many argued that adults are the only ones who have access to tobacco in the city and people will still shop for it elsewhere, even if it's banned in Manhattan Beach.

"Reducing availability (of tobacco) helps (smokers) along quitting," Councilman Steve Napolitano said.

City Council plans to help retailers transition to tobacco-free storefronts through potential small grants or hiring a consultant to provide resources and educational resources.

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