As footage of BTS‘s Jungkook smoking outside a Los Angeles restaurant makes rounds across the internet, the question that continues to surface is, “Did he break the law?” While smoking is not illegal in itself, many are asking whether the location of the smoke break was in violation of Californian regulations.
These laws can be complex to understand, so here’s a breakdown that sets the record straight.
On September 7, American celebrity gossip website Lainey Gossip released photos of BTS’s Jungkook smoking outside Matsuhisa, a well-known Los Angeles dining spot that’s popular among celebrities.
The photos were credited to celebrity news agency BACKGRID, with video footage of the smoke break also surfacing.
The state of California prides itself on a particularly stringent set of “smoke-free air laws,” so it’s no surprise that the legal implications have come into question. The state’s laws cover a wide range of public spaces, most of which focus on areas you can’t smoke inside (for example, inside day care centres and public transportation vehicles). The rest of the rules mandate areas you can’t smoke outside, including within 25 feet of a children’s playground or within 20 feet of a government building exits.
Across California’s smoke-free air guidelines, there is no mention of smoking on sidewalks or outside regular business exits. However, the guidance also states that cities and jurisdictions within California have the freedom to set their own restrictions into law. These local laws are stronger and often more strict than the state’s own regulations.
Local jurisdictions have and continue to adopt smoke-free laws that are stronger than state laws.
— California’s Statewide Smoke-Free Air Laws & Restrictions
The question then moves to the local laws of Los Angeles County. According to the county’s own Smoke-Free Ordinance, smoking is prohibited in and around all county facilities, including within 50 feet of the entrances, exits, or windows of any building in operation.
In the videos circulating online, it’s evident that Jungkook was certainly within a 50-foot range of Matsuhisa, calling legality into question. However, the law goes one more level deeper.
[The County’s Smoke-Free Outdoor Area Ordinance] prohibits smoking in all County facilities, both County-owned and leased facilities including:
Within 50 ft of any operable entry, exit or operable window of any building
— Los Angeles County Smoke-Free Ordinance
The key regulation comes from the City of Beverly Hills, where Matsuhisa is located. Alongside defining prohibited smoking areas, the ordinances of Beverly Hills list a number of areas where citizens and visitors are allowed to smoke. In particular, smoking is permitted on sidewalks when the person is actively walking and also in private businesses’ own designated smoking areas.
To protect and promote public health, the City of Beverly Hills regulates smoking in accordance with both state and local regulations.
Permitted Smoking Areas: At private smoker lounges (State law); in designated hotel/motel areas; within public right-of-way (sidewalks, streets, alleyways, etc.), only if actively travelling; moving vehicles without minors, single-family residences; designated smoking areas of private businesses and at outdoor public events.
— Beverly Hills Current Smoking Regulations
Did Jungkook’s smoke break take place in a designated area? According to a conversation between a local US resident and Matsuhisa’s reservation manager shared on Korean social portal TheQoo, the restaurant does indeed permit smoking in the area where Jungkook was seen. The reservation manager also noted that there is currently no ashtray, but there is a trash can where smokers can throw away their cigarette butts.
You can smoke on the road or the entrance in the parking lot. Many people, smokers, do it like this.
There is no ashtray. After smoking, you can throw the cigarette in the trash can.
— Matsuhisa restaurant reservation manager, via TheQoo
So, what’s the verdict? In short, California law states that local regulations (like those of Beverly Hills) take precedence over state-wide rules. As such, it appears that BTS’s Jungkook did not break any laws when smoking in Los Angeles.
Some have questioned other surrounding circumstances, such as whether Jungkook properly disposed of his cigarette butt, but there is currently no evidence of potential littering. Ultimately, while the situation remains a point of discussion, the aforementioned laws close the case on smoking outside the popular Beverly Hills restaurant.