New Provincial Legislation Changes Tighten Tobacco Control
by Sara Chow
Each year tobacco claims 13,000 lives of Ontarians and directly costs Ontario’s healthcare system $2.2 billion. That’s why the Smoke-Free Ontario Act (SFOA) has been one of Ontario’s front-running public health policies since 1994. The SFOA’s regulations primarily serve to protect the health of all Ontarians. However, in order to keep up with the tobacco industry and new health evidence, the SFOA is continuously updated.
This year brings many changes to the SFOA, focused primarily on e-cigarette sales regulations and amplified smoking bans in locations such as hospitals. As of January 1, 2016, it is illegal to sell or supply e-cigarettes and component parts (e.g. battery, atomizer) to anyone less than 19 years of age. Now, in stores where e-cigarettes are sold, owners must post signage stating the new regulations as well as signage saying that selling e-cigarettes to someone under 19 is illegal and that government I.D. with a photo and birth date must be shown when requested.
While health researchers continue to investigate e-cigarettes as a potential smoking cessation aid (which they are not proven to be, and are illegal to be marketed as), lawmakers are regulating e-cigarettes, and their use, following the same cigarette and tobacco product regulations. When asked why this consistency in regulations is important, Kelly-Jo Gillis, Manager of Preventive Health Services at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC) said, “Recent studies asking youth about their smoking and vaping use show that more non-smokers and never-smokers are trying e-cigarettes than regular cigarettes. This is a cause for concern when the harms are unknown, and when denormalization of cigarette smoking has played such a large role in preventing young people from starting to smoke.”
Another change to the SFOA, as of January 1, 2016, is that smoking (cigarettes and e-cigarettes) is banned on hospital grounds across all of Ontario, subject to a few specific exceptions. Specifically, hospitals can have a designated smoking area on their property where smoking will be permitted (following some rules outlined in the SFOA), but only until January 1, 2018. By that date, hospital grounds across Ontario will be expected to be 100% smoke-free.
TBRHSC has been smoke-free since opening its doors in 2004, and recommitted to a Smoke-Free Together initiative in 2013. As part of the strategy to make the hospital grounds 100% smoke-free (which means that there are no designated smoking areas on the property), the TBRHSC property was added to the City of Thunder Bay Smoking Prohibition By-Law #052-2010, making the entire grounds enforceable under municipal by-law.
“At the time, we didn’t know that the province would move to include all Ontario hospital grounds as part of their smoking ban regulations, so we pushed to have our municipal by-law amended. When we learned that the province would be moving forward with all hospitals being smoke-free, it gave us a sense of validation; we are doing the right thing,” explains Gillis.
For more information on TBRHSC’s smoke-free grounds and quitting smoking, visit www.tbrhsc.net/smokefree