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The Smoke-Free Ontario Act - A Summary

The Smoke-Free Ontario Act is the provincial tobacco control legislation which became effective on May 31, 2006.

This legislation provides a uniform smoke-free environment across the province. It protects people from second-hand smoke (SHS) and restricts access to tobacco products for children and youth.

Why the Change?

  • Although the Region of Peelís Smoke-free By-law was in effect until May 31, 2006, the Smoke–Free Ontario Act is provincial legislation and it over-rides the Region of Peel’s Smoke-free By-law
  • The Smoke-Free Ontario Act amended the existing (provincial) Tobacco Control Act (1994) when it became effective on May 31, 2006
  • Section 12 of the Smoke-Free Ontario Act stipulates that where both municipal smoke-free by-laws and the Smoke-Free Ontario Act exist; the provision that is more restrictive of smoking will prevail

What Changed?

  • The Smoke-Free Ontario Act prohibits smoking in any enclosed public place or enclosed workplace
  • This includes restaurants, bars, bingo halls, schools, private clubs, sports arenas, entertainment venues, work vehicles and licensed private home-based day cares
  • No designated smoking rooms (DSRs) are permitted in any enclosed public place or enclosed workplace in Ontario
  • DSRs in Peel bars, restaurants, billiard halls, bingo halls and night clubs were eliminated four years earlier than allowed by the Region of Peel’s Smoke-free By-law
  • New retail display requirements and tobacco retailer obligations restrict access to cigarettes and tobacco products for children and youth
  • Since January 21, 2009, smoking inside a vehicle with a child under the age of 16 has been prohibited under an amendment to the Smoke-Free Ontario Act.

Why is this Important?

  • Designated smoking rooms (DSRs) do not offer complete protection from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke (SHS) (Ontario Tobacco Research Unit. Protection from Second-hand Smoke in Ontario: A Review of Evidence Regarding Best Practices [PDF]. Toronto, ON: May 2001.)
  • DSRs are costly to maintain and inspect (York Region Tobacco Education and Control Program. Results of the Designated Smoking Room (DSR) Air Flow Compliance Checks in York Region [PDF]. February 2003-June 2004.) and create unfair disadvantages for smaller business owners
  • Making cigarettes and tobacco products more difficult for children and youth to access is important to prevent children and youth from starting to smoke
  • Children are not able to control their exposure to second-hand smoke and are especially vulnerable to the effects of second-hand smoke. It is important that parents, caregivers and child care providers protect them from exposure.

Employer Obligations

  • The Smoke-Free Ontario Act requires that employers and proprietors of enclosed workplaces and public places ensure that these venues remain smoke-free by enforcing the compliance of everyone within the enclosed area
  • Employers are also responsible for informing all employees and patrons that smoking tobacco or holding lighted tobacco is prohibited within the enclosed area and for posting "No Smoking" signs at all entrances, exits, washrooms and other appropriate locations.

Tobacco Retailers

  • Tobacco vendors are required to request photo identification from anyone who appears to be less than 25 years old before selling cigarettes or tobacco products
  • Business owners will be vicariously liable if their employees sell tobacco to anyone less than 19 years old or appearing under 25 years old without photo identification
  • No cigarettes and tobacco products may be displayed in a retail store before purchase
  • Retailers must not allow tobacco products to be displayed while restocking or doing inventory
  • Any action (intentional or unintentional) to display tobacco products in a storage device could be subject to a charge under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act
  • Customers are prohibited from viewing or handling cigarettes or tobacco products before purchase
  • The promotion of cigarettes and tobacco products through product association, product enhancement or promotional materials (e.g., decorative panels, promotional lighting or three-dimensional exhibits) is also prohibited.

Smoke-Free Ontario Act Signage

“No smoking” signs must be posted at all entrances, exits, washrooms and other appropriate locations in order to ensure that everyone knows that smoking is prohibited within an enclosed public place or enclosed workplace.

This page explains these signage requirements.

You can get these FREE signs here. To download these signs, please visit the Ontario Ministry of Health Promotion website. You can also call the Region of Peel – Public Health at 905-799-7700 for more information.


  • Peel Health Public Health Inspectors are responsible for enforcing the legislation
  • Public Health Inspectors will investigate any complaints regarding non-compliance with Smoke-Free Ontario Act
  • Failure to comply with the requirements of the Smoke-Free Ontario Act may result in legal action (e.g. being charged and/or fined)
  • Employees who report non-compliant employers are legally protected from reprisal by their employers under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act

Fact Sheets


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