The Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 (SFOA, 2017) prohibits the smoking of tobacco, the use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) to vape any substance, and the smoking of cannabis (medical and recreational) in enclosed workplaces and enclosed public places, as well as other designated places in Ontario, to protect workers and the public from second-hand smoke and vapour.
Retailers have a legal responsibility to ensure that they and their employees understand and comply with the requirements under the SFOA, 2017.
Tobacco products include:
Vapour products include:
The SFOA, 2017 prohibits the sale or supply of tobacco products or vapour products to anyone who is less than 19 years old. The Act also prohibits the sale or supply of tobacco or vapour products to anyone who appears to be younger than 25 years old unless ID is provided and the retailer is satisfied that the person is at least 19 years old.
The sale of flavoured tobacco and vapour products is regulated under the SFOA, 2017. It is against the law to sell or offer to sell flavoured tobacco products at retail, unless the flavoured tobacco product is exempt from this prohibition. See Fact Sheet on Flavoured Tobacco Products for more information.
It is also against the law to sell or offer to sell flavoured vapour products at retail, unless you are a Specialty Vape Store or Cannabis Retail Store or the flavoured vapour product is exempt from this prohibition. See Fact Sheet on How the Act Affects: Flavoured Vapour Products for more information.
It is against the law to sell or offer to sell vapour products with a nicotine concentration of more than 20mg/ml at retail, unless you are a Specialty Vape Store.
Tobacco and vapour products must not be displayed in a retail store. In addition, tobacco product accessories associated with a brand of tobacco (branded tobacco accessories) (e.g., lighters) also cannot be displayed. This means:
Any inappropriate display of tobacco products, branded tobacco accessories, or vapour products – whether intentional or unintentional – could result in charges to the salesperson or store owner.
Examples of acceptable tobacco products, branded tobacco accessories, or vapour products storage and dispensing systems include:
Examples of unacceptable tobacco products, branded tobacco accessories, or vapour products storage and dispensing systems include:
Small tags are permitted on the outside of storage units to help a clerk find the particular products contained in each unit. However, in the case of tobacco products, branded tobacco accessories, or vapour products the tags must:
Retailers may use coloured-coded stickers to assist with brand identification as long as the stickers are not visible to customers. If the retailer chooses to use these stickers they must be used in conjunction with the exterior black and white product identification tags as described above.
The SFOA, 2017 prohibits stores from promoting the sale of tobacco products, tobacco accessories and vapour products by means of any commercial act or practice or use of any commercial communication, through any media or other means that is intended to or is likely to:
A retailer may post up to three signs providing information about tobacco products or tobacco product accessories and their price, and up to three signs providing information about vapour products and their price, in order to inform customers that they sell tobacco products, tobacco product accessories, and/or vapour products.
A retailer may also make available an informational document (e.g., brochure, catalogue) about tobacco products, tobacco product accessories, or vapour products, and their price, if the following conditions are met:
Retailers that wish to display and promote tobacco products and branded tobacco accessories or vapour products must register as Tobacconists or Specialty Vape Stores, respectively. See Fact Sheets for Tobacconists and Specialty Vape Stores for more information.
Cannabis Retail Stores (within the meaning of the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018), are exempt from the prohibition on promoting and displaying vapour products in the SFOA, 2017.
“No Smoking” and “No Vaping” signs, or a dual “No Smoking and No Vaping” sign must be posted at all store entrances, exits, washrooms, in appropriate locations and sufficient numbers, so that employees and customers know that smoking and vaping is not permitted.
All stores selling tobacco products must post, in clear view of the customer at the point of sale:
All stores selling vapour 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 or vapour products 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 or the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. 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, 2017 states that the business owner is liable for any violation of the Act’s sale, display or promotion 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 and vape-free at all times.
Local Public Health Units will carry out inspections and respond to complaints regarding retailers to enforce the SFOA, 2017.
There are several penalties that a retailer could face for violating the SFOA, 2017. 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 is notified that there are two or more owner convictions for tobacco sales offences committed in the same location within a five-year period, even if the ownership changes, 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 could deliver tobacco to that location. An automatic prohibition lasts for six, nine or twelve months, depending on the number of convictions for tobacco sales offences that have taken place within the five-year period.
Retailers are advised to review the SFOA, 2017 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:
For specific information on SFOA, 2017 rules applicable to retailers contact your local Public Health Unit.
For more information on the SFOA, 2017, please visit the Ontario Ministry of Health website