The Smoke-Free Ontario Act (SFOA) prohibits smoking tobacco in all enclosed workplaces and enclosed public places, as well as other designated places in Ontario, to protect workers and the public from the hazards of second-hand smoke.
The Act also prohibits the sale and supply of tobacco products to anyone who is less than 19 years old and prohibits the display and promotion of tobacco products at any place where tobacco products are sold.
Tobacco retailers have a legal responsibility to ensure that they and their employees understand and comply with the requirements under the SFOA.
Tobacco products include:
No tobacco products may be displayed in a retail store. This means:
Examples of acceptable tobacco product storage and dispensing systems include:
Examples of unacceptable tobacco product storage and dispensing systems include:
Small tags are permitted on the outside of storage units to help a clerk find the particular tobacco products contained in each unit. Price information is not permitted on these identification tags. The tags must:
The SFOA prohibits stores from promoting the sale of tobacco products through product association, product enhancement or any type of promotional material, including promotional items that are included in the sale of tobacco products at nominal or no cost.
Any kind of promotional material that reflects a particular brand of tobacco product is not permitted. Some examples of prohibited displays that are considered to assist in promoting tobacco products are:
A retailer may post up to three signs referring to sale of tobacco products, in order to inform customers that they sell tobacco products. Further:
No Smoking signs must be posted at all store entrances, exits, washrooms, and other appropriate locations so that everyone knows that smoking is not permitted.
All stores selling tobacco products must post, in clear view of the customer at the point of sale:
For information on where to get signs, please contact your local Public Health Unit.
Before selling tobacco to anyone who appears to be less than 25 years old, a retailer must request identification and be satisfied that the person is at least 19 years old. Acceptable identification must include a photograph of the person, the person's date of birth, and it must reasonably appear to have been issued by a government. Some examples are:
While retailers may not request an Ontario health card, it can be accepted as identification if it is offered by the customer and includes their picture and date of birth.
The SFOA states that the business owner is liable for any violation of the Act's age- based sales restrictions committed in their business, unless the owner exercised due diligence to avoid a violation (e.g. properly trained employees on the requirements of the Act).
Business owners have a responsibility to ensure that the entire premises are smoke-free at all times. For more information on the obligations of a tobacco retailer as the proprietor/employer of an enclosed workplace and enclosed public place, please refer to the "Smoke-Free Ontario Act – How the Act Affects: Enclosed Public Places" and "Smoke-Free Ontario Act – How the Act Affects: Enclosed Workplaces facts sheets.
Local public health units will carry out inspections and respond to complaints regarding tobacco retailers to enforce the SFOA.
There are several penalties that a retailer could face for violating the SFOA. Retailers are advised to review the Act to understand their responsibilities, and the fines that may result from failing to comply.
Certain activities prohibited under the Act are categorized as tobacco sales offences. These include:
If the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care is notified that there are two or more convictions for tobacco sales offences committed by the owner in the same location within a five year period, that location will be subject to an automatic prohibition. If that were to happen, that location could not sell or store any tobacco and no wholesaler or distributor may deliver tobacco to that location. An automatic prohibition lasts for six, nine or 12 months, depending on the number of convictions for tobacco sales offences that have taken place within the five year period.
Tobacco retailers are advised to review the SFOA to understand more about this penalty.
This fact sheet is intended as a quick reference only and should not be considered to be legal advice. For more information, please contact your local Public Health Unit.
You may also obtain information by calling toll-free:
Hours of operation: Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
For more information on the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, please visit the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care website: ontario.ca/smokefree