Area of Law: Employment Law
Answer Number: 1684
Smoking in the workplaceRegion: Ontario Answer Number: 1684
Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 (SFOA)
Ontario’s Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 regulates where it is prohibited to smoke or vape in the province.
What is prohibited?
The Act applies to the following substances and products:
(a) tobacco in any processed or unprocessed form that may be smoked, inhaled or chewed, including snuff, but not to products intended for use in nicotine replacement therapy;
(c) vapour products; and
(d) prescribed products and substances
Under the Act, smoking and vaping refer to the following:
- smoking or holding lighted tobacco
- smoking or holding cannabis (medical or recreational)
- vaping (inhaling or exhaling vapour) from an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) or holding an activated e-cigarette, regardless of whether the vapour contains nicotine
Prohibited places include:
- enclosed workplaces,
- enclosed public places, and
- other specifically designated places in Ontario.
For instance, it is illegal to smoke or vape in:
- schools and playgrounds
- child care facilities
- restaurants and bar patios, including the public space within 9 metres of the patio
- common area in apartment buildings or condominiums, university or college residences, such as elevators and hallways
- in a vehicle or boat if anyone inside is 15 years or younger; or anytime if the vehicle or boat is in motion or at risk of being put into motion
- places where early years programs are held
- reserved seating areas of a sports arenas or entertainment venues
- within 9 metres of any entrance or exit of a public or private hospital, psychiatric facility, long-term care home or independent health facility
- a prescribed place or area
There are exemptions to these rules. For example, you can smoke or vape:
- in your private home, unless you have signed a lease or an agreement stating otherwise, or live in a condominium with bylaws that prohibit it;
- in controlled smoking or vaping areas in designated residential care facilities, psychiatric facilities, supportive housing residences, and facilities for veterans; and
- in fully enclosed guest rooms in hotels and motels that are designated for smoking or vaping
For more information, view the Act.
Penalties under the SFOA
In Ontario, under the SFOA, if you smoke or vape where it is not allowed, you may be charged with an offence and if convicted subject to a fine of:
- $1,000 for a first offence,
- $5,000 for any further offence
What is an enclosed workplace?
Under the SFOA, smoking or vaping is prohibited in an enclosed workplace, even if the workplace is closed for business. An enclosed workplace is defined as:
“(a) the inside of any place, building or structure or vehicle or conveyance or a part of any of them,
(i) that is covered by a roof,
(ii) that employees work in or frequent during the course of their employment whether or not they are acting in the course of their employment at the time, and
(iii) that is not primarily a private dwelling, or
(b) a prescribed place”
Examples of enclosed workplace areas include: temporary office structures, restaurant kitchens, parking garages and washrooms.
Who does the SFOA apply to in the workplace?
An “employee” is a person who:
- Performs any work for or supplies any services to an employer, or
- A person who receives any instruction or training in the activity, business, work, trade, occupation or profession of an employer.
An “employer” includes:
- An owner, operator, proprietor, manager, superintendent, overseer, receiver or trustee of an activity, business, work, trade, occupation, profession, project or undertaking who has control or direction of, or is directly or indirectly responsible for, the employment of a person in it.
What are the employer’s responsibilities?
All employers who operate an enclosed workplace must comply with the following regulations:
- post “No Smoking” or other prescribed signs throughout the workplace, such as all entrances, exits, and washrooms;
- provide notice to employees of the prohibitions;
- ensure that the SFAO is complied with, and no one smokes or holds lighted tobacco or cannabis or uses an e-cigarette in an enclosed workplace, public place, or area where smoking is banned;
- ensure that a person who does not comply with the prohibition leaves the premises; and
- make sure there are no ashtrays (or any object that serves as one) in the enclosed workplace
Federal workers – Non-smokers’ Health Act
The Non-smokers’ Health Act restricts smoking in federally regulated workplaces, public places under federal jurisdiction, and on certain types of transportation, such as airplanes and trains. For more information, view the Act.
In Ontario, a person must be 19 years of age to legally buy, be provided with, or smoke tobacco, cannabis or vapour products.
Retailers selling to minors
Retailers caught selling tobacco and vapour products to minors are subject to fines ranging from $490 to $300,000.
Although the legal age for purchasing tobacco, cannabis or vapour products,when selling tobacco and vapour products retailers are required to ask for identification from anyone who appears to be under the age of 25. In addition, employers must post signs regarding identification, the age restriction and health warnings. Failure to post these signs could result in a fine of $240 – $75,000.
For further information on the laws regarding the buying, selling, cultivation and consumption of cannabis, refer to Cannabis Law.
For more information about smoking and vaping in Ontario, view the SFAO, or visit Ontario.ca.
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