Note: The Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 (“SFO Act”) has been indefinitely postponed to give the new provincial government an opportunity to review the new regulations related to vaping. For details, please see https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/17s26. For now, the existing Smoke Free Ontario Act and the Electronic Cigarettes Act, 2015 remain in force. We will update the blog as the situation changes.
On July 1, 2018 the new Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 (“SFO Act”) and its accompanying regulation, O. Reg 268/18, comes into force as part of the Omnibus changes to address the legalization of cannabis. The SFO Act contains new requirements for employers, such as mandatory signage requirements.
Prohibitions on Use
Section 12 of the SFO Act will prohibit anyone from smoking or holding lit tobacco, smoking or holding lit medical cannabis, using an electronic cigarette, or consuming a prescribed product or substance in a prescribed manner in a prohibited place. Prohibited places include enclosed public places, enclosed workplaces, schools within the meaning of the Education Act, any indoor common area in a condominium, apartment, or post-secondary residence (such as elevators, hallways, parking lots, party rooms, laundry facilities, lobbies, and gyms), child care centres within the meaning of the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014, the seating area of sports arenas or entertainment venues, and other prescribed places.
Section 13 sets out certain exemptions for residential facilities, hotels, motels or inns, scientific research and testing facilities, and hospices.
Obligations for Employers
Section 14 of the SFO Act sets out specific obligations for employers. In enclosed workplaces or any other prohibited place mentioned above in which an employer exercises control, employers must:
- Ensure no one smokes or holds lit tobacco, smokes or holds lit medical cannabis, uses an electronic cigarette, or consumes a prescribed product or substance in a prescribed manner in a prohibited place,
- Provide notice to all employees in the enclosed workplace of the foregoing prohibitions,
- Post prescribed signs respecting the prohibitions throughout the enclosed workplace, place or area (including washrooms),
- Ensure that no ashtrays or similar equipment remain in the enclosed workplace or place or area (does not include vehicles in which the manufacturer installed an ashtray),
- Ensure that a person who refuses to comply with the prohibitions is removed from the enclosed workplace or place or area, and
- Ensure compliance with any other prescribed obligations.
Employees who act in accordance with or seek to enforce the SFO Act are protected from reprisal.
Mandatory Signage Requirements
Most of O. Reg 268/18 will also come into force on July 1, 2018. O. Reg 268/18 will expand on the requirements under the SFO Act. Among other things, O. Reg 268/18 outlines more places in which use of certain products is prohibited or restricted, such as in restaurants and bar patios, children’s playgrounds, sporting areas, shelters, community recreational facilities, and other areas.
O. Reg 268/18 will also require employers, proprietors, hotels, motels, inns, and others to post specific mandatory signs in a conspicuous manner that is not obstructed from view.
As per earlier legislation, employers are required to post specific signs prohibiting smoking in the workplace. Under the SFO Act, employers must update their signs to meet new specific requirements. Starting July 1st, employers will be required to post either: (i) both of the signs described in paragraphs 1 and 2 below, OR (ii) the sign described in paragraph 3 below. The two signs in paragraph 1 and 2 or the sign in paragraph 3 must be posted at each entrance and exit of the enclosed workplace, place or area in appropriate locations. Employers must also post enough signs to ensure that employees and the public are aware that smoking and the use of electronic cigarettes is prohibited in the enclosed workplace, place or area:
Paragraph 1: A sign that is at least 10 centimetres in height and at least 10 centimetres in width, and a copy of the sign entitled “Tobacco Sign for Employers”, dated January 1, 2018 and accessible through a website of the Government of Ontario; and
Paragraph 2: A sign that is at least 10 centimetres in height and at least 10 centimetres in width, and a copy of the sign entitled “Electronic Cigarette Sign for Employers”, dated January 1, 2018 and accessible through a website of the Government of Ontario.
Paragraph 3: at least 15 centimetres in height and at least 20 centimetres in width, and a copy of the sign entitled “Tobacco and Electronic Cigarette Sign for Employers”, dated January 1, 2018 and accessible through a website of the Government of Ontario.
While the signs are meant to be made available to the public before July 1, 2018, they have yet to be posted on the government’s website. We will provide an update once the signs have been posted online. In the interim, employers may be able to obtain the new signs by contacting their local public health unit.
Other Changes Related to Legalization of Cannabis
Additional changes to smoke-related legislation are on the horizon, as the Federal Cannabis Act, which will legalize the consumption of recreational cannabis in Canada, will come into force on October 17, 2018. Ontario will also pass its own Cannabis Act, which will come into force at the same time as the Federal Cannabis Act. Among other issues, the Ontario Cannabis Act will establish rules and restrictions relating to the sale, distribution, purchase, possession, cultivation, propagation and harvesting of cannabis in the province.
The foregoing is for informational purposes only, and should in no way be relied upon as legal advice. For legal advice tailored to your circumstances and business, please contact any of SOM LLP’s lawyers by email or telephone.