Tobacco reduction – Common questions

Common questions about the Tobacco Reduction Act

  1. General information
  2. Provincewide smoking ban
  3. Tobacco displays and advertising
  4. Ban of tobacco sales in pharmacies, health facilities and post-secondary campuses

General information

1. Did this legislation replace the Smoke-free Places Act?

The Tobacco Reduction Act amended the Smoke-free Places Act. The Tobacco Reduction Act came into effect on January 1, 2008. The Act came into force in stages, with the display and advertising restrictions effective July 1, 2008, and the sales restrictions effective January 1, 2009.

2. Does this legislation apply to First Nations reserves?

This legislation is a law of general application, which means it would apply to all parts of the province, including on First Nations reserves, but subject to conflicting federal legislation or band bylaws.

  • As with the current legislation, the rights of Aboriginal people respecting traditional Aboriginal spiritual or cultural practices or ceremonies are not affected by the legislation.

3. Why not just ban the sale of tobacco products all together?

Change needs to be incremental; the changes implemented represent a significant step forward in protecting Albertans from second-hand smoke and reducing the impact of tobacco retailing and marketing.

  • These changes are similar to those in place elsewhere in Canada. Removing legal tobacco sales could potentially increase the demand for contraband cigarettes.

4. Who is enforcing this legislation?

Peace officers within the meaning of the Provincial Offences Procedure Act (this includes police, RCMP and special constables) as well as inspectors within the Inspections branch of the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, under the Ministry of Finance, enforce Section 7.1 and 7.2 of the Tobacco Reduction Act.

  • The manager or owner of a place where smoking is prohibited under the Act must not permit a person to smoke in that place. Managers or owners who permit smoking where it is prohibited are guilty of an offence and liable to fines ranging from up to $10,000 for a first offence and up to $100,000 for a second or subsequent offence.
  • Individuals who smoke where prohibited can receive fines ranging from up to $1,000 for a first offence and up to $5,000 for a second or subsequent offence. In addition, a ticket amount of $250 can be issued for smoking in a prohibited area.

5. Are there any restrictions in this Act that affect tobacco manufacturing or packaging?

No, there are no regulations with respect to tobacco manufacturing or packaging in this Act.

6. What are the fines?

If an individual is in contravention of section 3 of the Act, fines range from up to $1,000 for a first offence and up to $5,000 for a subsequent offence. If an individual is in contravention of sections 6, 7, 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3 of the Act, fines range from up to $10,000 for a first offence and up to $100,000 for a second or subsequent offence.

7. I want to quit smoking. What resources are out there to help me?

Quitting is possible. In fact there are more former smokers in Alberta than there are current smokers. Alberta has free provincewide cessation services which offer expert counselling support and a customized quit plan:

Provincewide smoking ban

1. When did the provincewide smoking ban come into effect?

The Tobacco Reduction Act came into effect on January 1, 2008. As of this date smoking is prohibited in all public places and workplaces in the province. This includes all bars, bingo halls and casinos.

  • A public place is defined as all or any part of a building, structure or other enclosed area to which members of the public have access including common areas of multi-unit residential facilities, group living facilities, outdoor bus and taxi shelters, licensed premises, restaurants, hotels and public vehicles.
  • A workplace is defined as all or any part of a building, structure or enclosed area in which employees perform the duties of their employment and includes reception areas, corridors, lobbies, stairwells, elevators, escalators, eating areas, washrooms, lounges, storage areas, laundry rooms, enclosed parking garages and work vehicles.

2. How far away from a doorway are you allowed to smoke?

Smoking is not allowed within five metres of a doorway, window or air intake of a public place or workplace.

3. Can you still smoke near a window if the window doesn’t open?

Yes. The restrictions do not apply to a window that doesn’t open.

4. Who will enforce the restriction around smoking near doorways? The employer? Who would get the fine?

The manager of a place where smoking is prohibited under the Act must not permit a person to smoke in that place. Managers who permit smoking where it is prohibited are guilty of an offence and liable to fines ranging from up to $10,000 for a first offence and up to $100,000 for a second or subsequent offence.

Individuals who smoke where prohibited can receive fines ranging from up to $1,000 for a first offence and up to $5,000 for a second or subsequent offence. In addition, a ticket amount of $250 can be issued for smoking in a prohibited area.

  • Peace officers within the meaning of the Provincial Offences Procedure Act, which includes police, RCMP, municipal bylaw officers and special constables.

5. Can I still smoke in my home and car?

The Act does not include restrictions on smoking in private homes and private cars.

6. What about taxis, buses and work vehicles – can you smoke in these?

No. Taxis, buses and other vehicles used to transport members of the public for a fee are considered public vehicles and smoking is not permitted. Work vehicles are defined as workplaces under the Tobacco Reduction Act; therefore smoking is also not permitted.

7. I use my own car for work. Can I still smoke in it while working?

Yes, you can continue to smoke in your private vehicle while working as long as there are no employees who also use the car.

8. Can employers and businesses owners still have designated smoking rooms?

No. Under the Tobacco Reduction Act, smoking is banned in all public places and workplaces.

9. Are there any exceptions?

Yes. Smoking will continue to be permitted in designated smoking rooms within group living facilities, lodges and designated hotel guest rooms.

A group living facility includes a facility for the long term care of veterans, nursing homes, mental health facilities, and residential facilities for adults only licensed under the Social Care Facilities Licensing Act. Lodge accommodations is defined under the Alberta Housing Act.

  • The legislation does not include restrictions on smoking in private homes and private cars, nor will it apply to open areas such as public parks, beaches or campgrounds. However, smoking would be prohibited in enclosed areas such as picnic shelters and change rooms at the beach.

10. Will this legislation have a negative economic impact on the hospitality industry?

This Act levels the playing field for all Alberta businesses across the province. Smoking is banned from all public places and workplaces. Numerous studies conducted around the world have concluded that smoking bans do not have a long-term negative economic impact on businesses and certain jurisdictions have experienced a positive economic impact.

11. How does this legislation impact the municipalities who already have smoke free bylaws?

The Tobacco Reduction Act sets a new minimum standard in the province. If a bylaw contains provisions that are more restrictive then those provisions would take precedence. This legislation does not affect a municipality’s right to pass even stricter bylaws prohibiting smoking.

12. What kind of signage do I need?

Signs are required where smoking is prohibited. Additional signage requirements for retailers who sell tobacco came into effect July 2008. Signage is also required where smoking is permitted, such as a group living facility or a hotel room.

13. What if a hall, meeting room, banquet hall is being rented out for a private function? Can they allow smoking?

No. Banquet halls and meeting rooms are still considered a public place and therefore smoking is not allowed at any time.

14. Does this Act apply to legions and private clubs?

Yes. Legions and private clubs are also considered a workplace. The Tobacco Reduction Act defines a workplace to be any part of a building, structure or other enclosed area in which employees perform the duties of their employment, whether or not members of the public have access to the building, structure of area as of right or by express or implied invitation.

15. Does this Act apply to smokeless tobacco?

This Act restricts the display and advertising of tobacco products including smokeless tobacco, effective July 1, 2008 as well as prohibits the sale of smokeless tobacco products in all pharmacies, health facilities and post-secondary campuses, effective January 1, 2009. This Act does not ban the use of smokeless tobacco products in public places and workplaces.

16. Can you still smoke on patios?

No. An outdoor eating area that is part of or operated in conjunction with a restaurant is considered a public place.

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Tobacco displays and advertising

1. What is a powerwall?

A powerwall is a display of tobacco products, typically located behind a counter at a retail premise.

2. Why are tobacco displays being banned?

Studies show that tobacco product ads and displays increase tobacco sales anywhere from 12 to 28 per cent. These tobacco displays are also an effective marketing tool to children and youth. Banning tobacco displays from retailers will help prevent young people from starting to smoke and reduce their exposure to tobacco products.

3. Will removing tobacco displays have a negative economic impact on small businesses?

Data supplied by Canadian tobacco manufacturers under Health Canada reporting requirements show that tobacco industry payments to retailers in provinces that have prohibited power walls have remained largely unaffected.

4. Will the government compensate business owners for building modifications and expenses incurred in order to comply with the legislation?

The government will not be responsible for compensating business owners for building modifications and expenses incurred in order to comply with the legislation.

5. Will the government offer compensation to businesses for loss in revenue because of this legislation?

Extensive studies of jurisdictions in Canada and around the world with similar legislation indicate that there is no long-term negative economic impact to businesses.

6. How will customers know that tobacco products are sold at my store or what types or brands of tobacco are available?

Retailers are permitted to have signs posted in their store listing the prices and brands offered for sale. These signs must comply with the following requirements prescribed in the regulations:

  • A maximum of one sign per till;
  • A maximum of three signs per location;
  • The text of the sign must not be visible from outside the place;
  • The maximum size of the sign is 968 sq. cm;
  • The sign must be white, except for its text, which must be black;
  • The maximum height of a letter in the sign’s text is 18 mm;
  • The text size and style must be consistent in all parts of the sign, and the text must not contain italics, bold type or underlining;
  • Signs may include the name and price of a tobacco product but may not contain any other wording, pictures, logos or other illustrations.

7. What if I’m a tobacconist?

Under the Tobacco Reduction Regulation, tobacconists are exempt from the tobacco display and advertising prohibitions in the Act. In accordance with the regulation, a tobacconist is defined as a person who sells only:

  • Tobacco;
  • Cigars;
  • Cigarettes; and
  • Tobacco-related products, including cigarette paper, matches, lighters, cigar and cigarette holders, pipes, pipe cases, pipe cleaners, pouches and humidors.

As well, under the regulation, minors are prohibited from entering the tobacconist’s premises if retail displays and advertising are visible.

  • A tobacconist may also display a sign visible outside the tobacconist’s retail premises that indicates the name of the tobacconist’s business.

8. How does the display ban apply to specialty tobacco products?

For retailers and tobacconists, cigars, cigarillos, pipe tobacco and other specialty tobacco products including chewing tobacco, snus and snuff are included in the display ban the same rules apply as for cigarettes.

9. How the does the display ban apply to the sale of pipes, lighters, matches and other accessories?

The Tobacco Reduction Act does not prohibit the display of tobacco product accessories. Products that still can be displayed include:

  • Pipes;
  • Cigarette tubes;
  • Cigar cutters;
  • Humidors;
  • Lighters; and
  • Matches.

It is important to note that the tobacco product accessories must not contain brand indicators.

10. What is the fine for displaying tobacco?

If a retailer is found to be in contravention of the display, advertising and promotion provisions of the Tobacco Reduction Act they can receive a fine of up to $10,000 for a first offence and up to $100,000 dollars for a second or subsequent offence. If a retailer is convicted of a third or subsequent offence, the Minister may by order in writing prohibit the retailer from selling tobacco products at the place at which the offence took place, or at any place to which the business of the retailer is moved, for the period of time provided for in the order.

Another method of enforcement is ticketing under the Provincial Offences Procedures Act. A retailer, who displays, promotes or advertises tobacco products can receive a ticket of $500.

11. Will cigarette vending machines in clubs and bars need to comply with the Tobacco Reduction Act regulation?

Yes. Vending machines will be subject to the same requirements as any other tobacco display. The Tobacco Reduction Act prohibits the display, promotion and advertising of tobacco products in a premise that sells tobacco. This restriction applies to vending machines and as of July 1, tobacco products and tobacco brand indicators in vending machines are not allowed. Please note that a sign listing the tobacco products for sale and the price is permitted so long as it complies with Section 5 of the regulation, which says:

  • For the purpose of section 7.2(2) of the Act, signs listing tobacco products offered for sale and their prices in a place described in section 7.2(1) of the Act must meet the following requirements:
    1. A maximum of one sign per till;
    2. A maximum of three signs in the place;
    3. The text of the sign must not be visible from outside the place;
    4. The maximum size of the sign is 968 sq. cm;
    5. The sign must be white, except for its text, which must be black;
    6. The maximum height of a letter in the sign’s text is 18 mm;
    7. The text size and style must be consistent in all parts of the sign, and the text must not contain italics, bold type or underlining;
    8. Signs may include the name and price of a tobacco product but may not contain any other wording, pictures, logos or other illustrations.

12. Would the restocking of shelves be considered a “display” of tobacco products?

Section 7.1 of the Tobacco Reduction Act prohibits a person from displaying or permitting the display of tobacco products in any manner that would permit a consumer to view or handle a tobacco product before purchasing it.

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Ban of tobacco sales in pharmacies, health facilities and post-secondary campuses

1. Why are pharmacies, health care facilities and post-secondary campuses  prohibited from selling tobacco?

These kinds of organizations and businesses exist to promote health, well-being and advancement of adults and youth. Both the Alberta College of Pharmacists and the Canadian Pharmaceutical Association believe it is an ethical conflict for pharmacies or health care facilities to sell tobacco products.

2. How does this legislation impact big chain stores like Safeway and Sobeys that have pharmacies on their premises?

Chain stores that have pharmacies are not permitted to sell tobacco products. Alberta is one of the few provinces in Canada that had not yet implemented legislation restricting the sale of tobacco in pharmacies. Removing tobacco products from pharmacies is supported by the Alberta College of Pharmacists.

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