Information for Tobacco Retailers

If you have a Tobacco Retailer Authorization (TRA), issued by the Ministry of Finance, you have legal responsibilities to comply with the Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act and Regulation which restricts how tobacco and tobacco products can be sold, displayed and promoted.

The Sale of Tobacco and Tobacco Products

It is illegal to sell, offer to sell, distribute, advertise or promote the use of tobacco to individuals under 19 years of age. Retailers must post approved health warning signs, cannot sell cigarettes in packages of fewer than 20 cigarettes, sell cigarettes from open packages, or have any display or promotion of tobacco or tobacco products.  Failure to comply, could lead to fines and/or suspension of your TRA.

Employers and staff should review the Tobacco Retailer Resource Kit for information describing their legal obligations when selling and displaying tobacco products.

Signs required for the sale of tobacco products?

It is important to note that the Ministry of Health has updated the signs required by tobacco retailers. You must use only the signs provided by the Ministry of Health. Please contact your regional health authority to receive your copies of your signs.

There are now just two mandated signs that retailers must place at the point of sale:

1. One sign faces the customers and informs them they must be at least 19 years of age to buy tobacco products. Tobacco Signage for Customers
2. A second sign faces the retailer/employee of retailer and reminds them that only those 19 or older with approved identification can buy tobacco products. Tobacco Signage for Employees

Signs required for the sale of both tobacco and vapour products

The Ministry of Health has created signs that retailers of both products should use:

1. One sign faces the customers and informs them they must be at least 19 years of age to buy tobacco and vapour products. Tobacco and Vapour Signage for Customers
2. A second sign faces the retailer/employee of retailer and reminds them that only those 19 or older with approved identification can buy tobacco and vapour products. Tobacco and Vapour Signage for Employees

NOTE: Tobacco retailers are no longer required to post the 17cm by 35cm graphic warning sign. These signs may have had a picture of a fish-hook or a small girl with an oxygen mask on. These signs can be removed.

Restrictions on the display and promotion of tobacco and tobacco products

Tobacco products cannot be displayed or be visible to minors – those under the age of 19 – inside any store. In addition, they cannot be clearly visible to a person outside of the store.

Tobacco cannot be promoted through such methods as manufacturers’ signs, videos, or logos on t-shirts, lighters, ball caps, etc. except as specified in the Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Regulation.

  • Exception: If your store only allows adults (aged 19 and older) to enter the store or have a section of the store that is adult-only, then you may have tobacco products and their promotions out on display.  However, you must ensure that people looking into the store or age-restricted section from outside cannot see the tobacco products or their advertisements.

For information specific to advertising tobacco products:

The federal Tobacco Act also restricts advertising. For more information, see Health Canada’s website.

Tobacco products advertisements outside of retail stores

Our advertising regulations apply to retail premises. If a retailer wishes to advertise outside of those premises (e.g. on a sandwich board, newspaper or billboard), then the retailer should review the requirements set by your local and federal governments.

Display requirements for tobacco products in duty free stores

Duty free stores are treated the same as all other retail stores in British Columbia. Duty-free stores that sell tobacco products can either stop youth from entering their premises or place these products in age-restricted areas.

In the case of displays of these products in duty free stores, federal legislation does not take precedence over provincial legislation. These laws will continue to be enforced in duty free stores by enforcement officers from health authorities.

Places that cannot sell tobacco products

There are a number of public places in B.C. that cannot sell tobacco products. Stores in the following locations cannot sell tobacco products:

  • Any publicly owned or leased hospital or healthcare facility.
  • Any publicly owned or leased post-secondary buildings that are used for education, research or student services.
  • Any municipal or regional district buildings used for athletics, recreation or library services.
  • Any building owned or leased by government or crown corporations or agencies.

Enforcement

Enforcement officers in the regional health authorities are responsible for enforcing the Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act and the Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Regulation.

Their work is guided by a progressive enforcement model that includes: education and awareness, verbal warning, letter warning, ticketing and administrative hearings. Their goal is to ensure everyone is meeting the requirements of the legislation through education and progressive enforcement options. Many times, an enforcement officer will work with retailers to educate them on the requirements and help parties comply with the new laws.  Enforcement officers may also use minor test shoppers as part of their inspection routines.

Penalties

If an enforcement officer believes a retailer or their employee has contravened the Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act or Regulation, the officer has two main options:

  • A ticket can be issued: tickets vary from $345 or $575 depending on the contravention. Fine amounts for contraventions of the Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act and Regulation are provided under the Violation Ticket Administration and Fines Regulation (Schedule 2), B.C. Reg. 89/97.
  • A request can be made for an administrative hearing: an administrative hearing is usually for more serious violations and allows both the retailer and enforcement officer an opportunity to provide evidence in a hearing. If a contravention is found, adjudicators can set monetary penalties and/or suspend tobacco sales authorizations and prohibit the sale of vapour products. Monetary penalties range up to $5,000, and suspensions of tobacco sales authorizations and prohibition of sale of vapour products range up to 180 days.