Santa Monica Council OKs Ban on Cigarette Machines


Santa Monica has become the second city in the state to ban cigarette vending machines, making it more difficult for minors to buy cigarettes and, in theory, possibly discouraging adults from smoking.

The City Council has voted unanimously to ban cigarette sales from machines as of May 1.

Under the ordinance, the vending machines do not have to be removed, but tobacco products may not be sold from them, according to Deputy City Atty. Laurie Lieberman.

Councilman Herb Katz suggested the ban last month as a way to discourage both minors and adults from buying and smoking cigarettes. Because vending machines often are not monitored, he said, minors can easily purchase cigarettes from them.

The ordinance will also ban the sale of individual cigarettes from the manufacturer's package.

Katz and other supporters of the ban pointed to a recent report by the U.S. inspector general's office on smoking by minors. It concluded that children can easily buy cigarettes and that one approach used successfully to curb this is to place restrictions on vending machines.

The report said that each day more than 3,000 children start smoking, and that despite laws in 44 states banning the sale of cigarettes to minors, millions of youths smoke.

Joanne Leavitt, an unsuccessful candidate last year for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board and past president of the Santa Monica-Malibu Council PTA, also pushed for the ban.

"I've seen too many times 14-year-olds buying cigarettes out of vending machines," Leavitt said. "I would also like (the City Council) to provide some education and enforcement."

Councilman Tony Vazquez said he discussed the ban with some merchants, and none seemed to oppose it.

"I found out that they don't make any money off the machine; they just do it for convenience," Vazquez said.

A growing number of cities nationwide are placing restrictions on cigarette vending machines, according to the League of California Cities, although many are simply applying the prohibition to places accessible to minors, such as bowling alleys and restaurants. Those cities allow the machines at places closed to minors, such as bars.

Santa Monica's ordinance bans the sale of cigarettes from all vending machines. Rancho Mirage is the only other city in the state with an outright ban.

Los Angeles and West Hollywood are expected to consider similar bans.

Community correspondent Dennis Romero contributed to this story.

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