It’s Now Illegal to Sell Tobacco in 2 California Cities

But a statewide ban on flavored tobacco is on hold.

January 07, 2021

SACRAMENTO—On Jan. 1, two California cities officially banned tobacco products from stores within their jurisdictions. Beverly Hills and Manhattan Beach are now the only municipalities in the U.S. to make it illegal to sell commercial tobacco, according to

The Beverly Hills City Council was the first to pass a no-tobacco-sales ordinance. "Somebody's got to be first, so let it be us," said then-Mayor and current Councilmember John Mirisch, who first proposed the concept in 2017. He recently joined the board of the Action on Smoking & Health (ASH), an advocacy group that wants to phase out tobacco sales globally.

In Manhattan Beach, the ban was spearheaded by council member Steve Napolitano, and the city passed the law late in February 2020 to give retailers time to phase out sales by Jan. 1.

Meanwhile, California state officials have delayed the statewide ban on flavored tobacco products that was scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1 after opponents, including tobacco companies, said they gathered enough signatures to put the new law to a statewide vote, reports NBC San Diego.

The secretary of state and attorney general's offices won't enforce the pending law until county clerks have had enough time to verify that there are at least 623,000 valid signatures on the petition. The main group opposing the law, the California Coalition for Fairness, has said in a statement that it turned in more than one million signatures, far more than enough to qualify for the ballot.

If enough signatures are valid, the measure will go before voters in the next statewide general or special election, probably in November 2022. If not, the law will take effect when the secretary of state certifies that the signature drive fell short. The California Coalition for Fairness said it expects the referendum to be through the verification process by the end of January.

The pending law would not make it a crime for people to possess flavored tobacco products, but instead would ban retailers from selling them. Violators would face a $250 fine. The measure does not ban all flavored tobacco products. Exemptions would include loose leaf tobacco, premium cigars and shisha tobacco used in hookah water pipes. Premium cigars are defined as any that are not mass produced by a machine, have wrappers made entirely from whole tobacco leaf and cost at least $12.

The state of California has no ban the sale of flavored marijuana products.