Vaping Divide

FILE - In this Friday, Aug. 17, 2018 file photo, a man breathes vapes from an e-cigarette at a vape shop in London. While the U.S. scrambles to crack down on vaping, Britain has embraced electronic cigarettes as a powerful tool to help smokers kick the habit. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File)

Manhattan Beach is a step closer to totally banning tobacco and vaping sales in the small beach city.

On Tuesday night, City Council voted to approve the first reading of an ordinance prohibiting the sale of the substances.

The ordinance will come back to Council for a second reading in coming months, city attorney Quinn Barrow said Tuesday. It passed so far, 4-1, with Councilmember Suzanne Hadley dissenting.

If adopted, the new law will prohibit the sale of all electronic smoking devices, vaping cartridges, and all forms of tobacco including all flavors, cigarettes, chew and cigars. The ordinance was first introduced to the city in December, and was then postponed to encompass everything tobacco-smoking related.

The ban would take effect Jan. 1, 2021, forcing tobacco retailers to deplete their smoking inventory by that date unless they get hardship extensions from the city. 

Hadley said she believes the rule opens the city up to potential lawsuits.

"I think it's the purest form of modern government overreach to deprive the sale of tobacco within city bounds," Hadley said Tuesday. "It puts hard-working small businesses at risk," she added. 

Councilmember Steve Napolitano said he finds the ban's timing ironic, but is comfortable Manhattan Beach is moving in the right direction.

"I look at the other things that we've banned for environmental purposes, like styrofoam and plastic straws, and yet somehow we're going to draw the line at the single deadliest consumer product ever sold," Napolitano said Tuesday. 

This isn't the city's first attempt to totally snuff out smoking.

Manhattan Beach in 2008 banned smoking at the beach, parks and inside all public buildings, Councilmember 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. 

Four retailers applied for hardship extensions that month to prepare for the forthcoming ban. Council in January granted 30 days, three months and six months to respective business owners depending on how long they requested.

It’s been illegal since 2015 to smoke or vape in Manhattan Beach’s public right-of-way, said city management analyst Alexandria Latragna in December. 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.

The 13 other tobacco retailers in Manhattan Beach can apply for extensions from Sept. 1 until Oct. 31, according to a city report. 

City Council offers to help retailers find alternative items to sell, Napolitano said.

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