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Beverly Hills

In 1987 the Beverly Hills City Council proposed a 100 percent smoke-free requirement for the city's restaurants. This ordinance would have been only the second such ordinance in the country and the first in California. For the proposal to become law, the council had to approve it on two separate readings. The ordinance passed its first reading without public opposition.

Between the first and second readings, the Tobacco Institute hired political consultant Rudy Cole to create the Beverly Hills Restaurant Association (BHRA) to oppose the ordinance.[4] To drum up membership for BHRA, Ron Saldana, the Tobacco Institute's regional director, spoke to the local restaurant owners and the Chamber of Commerce to “make them aware of the potential impact the ordinance will have on the community.”[5] The Tobacco Institute's role in creating the BHRA was not disclosed. At the second reading, Cole appeared as spokesperson of the newly formed Beverly Hills Restaurant Association to protest the ordinance. Nonetheless, the city council unanimously passed it in March 1987, making Beverly Hills approximately the 130th community in California to pass a clean indoor air ordinance and the state's first to make restaurants entirely smoke free.

Mickey Kantor, a prominent attorney in the well-connected law firm of Manatt, Phelps, Rothenberg and Phillips, was hired to represent the BHRA. (Kantor, a power in California Democratic politics, went on to become President Bill Clinton's foreign trade representative, secretary of commerce, and a key personal advisor in the Monica Lewinsky controversy.) The BHRA attempted to get a temporary court order to stop the implementation of the ordinance, but the effort failed.[6] Kantor then filed a lawsuit against the city claiming that the ordinance was unconstitutional, discriminatory, and disastrous for business. This action also failed.[7] The Tobacco Institute paid BHRA's legal bills.[8]

Having failed to void the law in court, the BHRA complained that restaurants had suffered a 30 percent drop in business after the ordinance took effect.[9-11] While being touted widely in tobacco industry publications, this claim was not challenged or investigated by the health community at the time. As a result, the claim of a serious impact on business


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was widely accepted. In July, four months after the ordinance went into effect, the city council voted 5-0 to allow restaurants to establish smoking sections of up to 40 percent of their seating.

Six years later, Barry Fogel, BHRA's nominal president, wrote to the New York City Council to endorse its planned ordinance making restaurants smoke free. He recounted the history of BHRA:

There was no Beverly Hills Restaurant Association before the smokefree ordinance. We were organized by the tobacco industry. The industry helped pay our legal bills in a suit against Beverly Hills. The industry even flew some of our members by Lear Jet to Rancho Mirage, another California city considering smokefree restaurant legislation, to testify before their City Council against a similar smokefree ordinance. Tobacco Institute representatives attended some of our meetings.

The tobacco industry repeatedly claimed that Beverly Hills restaurants suffered a 30% decline in revenues during the 5 months that the smokefree ordinance was in effect. Figures from the State Board of Equalization using sales tax data, however, showed a slight increase in restaurant sales.

I regret my participation with the tobacco industry. In 1991 when I learned that secondhand smoke caused cancer, I made all Jacopo's restaurants 100% smokefree, including bar and outdoor patio areas. Even in this difficult economic climate, our sales have risen.[12]

The tobacco industry could claim a victory in Beverly Hills because this was the first time a nonsmokers' rights ordinance had been weakened after it was enacted. Even so, while Beverly Hills represented a setback for clean indoor air advocates, the 60 percent minimum nonsmoking requirement still left Beverly Hills with the strongest ordinance in the state at that time.


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