Tobacco and Vapour Free Places

Under the Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act and Regulation, owners, managers or lessees, are responsible for ensuring that their public and work places comply with the requirements for creating a tobacco and vapour free environment.

How is the law being enforced?

The Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act and Regulation are enforced by regional health authority enforcement officers.

For more information about enforcement, visit Enforcement.

What are the penalties for breaking law?

Violations of smoke and vapour free legislation could result in a fine for the owner, manager, lessee and/or person smoking or vaping.

For more information about enforcement and penalties, visit Enforcement.

Using tobacco or vapour products outdoors

The Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Regulation sets a six metre zone around all doorways, air intakes  and open windows to any public and work places in B.C. (previously, the buffer zone was three metres). This means there must be a six metre area around any doorway, air intake or open window to any public or work place in which no one can stand and use tobacco or vapour products. This protects against emissions entering these places and protects people as they enter or exit.

Places that may be considered public or workplaces include stores, offices, and entrances to condominiums/apartment buildings, work vehicles (e.g., delivery vans), public transit, taxis, cafes, casinos and pubs/bars.

There is an exception to the buffer zone restriction:

  • Tobacco and vapour products can be used on an outdoor hospitality patio (e.g., patio of a bar, casino, café) that is within a buffer zone if there are no open windows, doors or active air intakes between the patio and the hospitality venue. For example, patrons can use vapour products on a casino’s patio as long as the doors are closed except for exiting/entering, the windows to the casino are closed and the air intake is not operating.

NOTE: You may live in a community/municipality that has greater restrictions on outdoor smoke/vapour product use. Some communities in B.C. ban use of tobacco and vapour products on hospitality patios have buffer zones that are larger than six metres or ban use of these products on outdoor spaces such as beaches or playgrounds. If your community has such a bylaw, it takes precedence over the provincial requirement. Whichever requirement is more restrictive is the requirement you must follow. As an example, the provincial legislation allows vapour product use on a hospitality patio. However, your community/municipality bans it through a bylaw. Therefore, the community/municipality bylaw is the one that must be followed.

You can print your own sign on an Avery #6573 label (PDF, 152KB).

Responsibilities of managers or owners to enforce the buffer zone

Owners and managers are required to take reasonable steps to prevent people from smoking/vaping within the six metre buffer zone on their property. They are not required to enforce the law on public property such as sidewalks, unless the person is within the control of the owner (such as a customer or patron) or is their employee. For example, if you place a bench at the doorway to your store, you must make sure people do not use tobacco or vapour products while sitting there.

Please note that many local governments have more restrictive laws in place. Please check with your local government before making any changes to your premises. Also check with WorkSafeBC for any additional environmental workplace requirements that may affect your operations.

Which places must be smoke and vapour free?

Smoking and vaping is not permitted in any fully or substantially enclosed public place or work place, or in the buffer zone around doors, open windows and air intakes to these locations. This includes both permanent structures and temporary ones such as marquee tents.

Places are considered fully or substantially enclosed if they have a roof or other type of covering, and more than 50% of the “nominal wall space” prevents the air from flowing easily through it.

If you require further guidance on whether your premises are enclosed or substantially enclosed, please contact an enforcement officer at your health authority.

Example of fully or substantially enclosed

Am I responsible for enforcing the buffer zone outside my doorway, when the door opens onto public property, such as a public sidewalk?

Business owners, managers or lessees are required to take reasonable steps to prevent people from smoking on their property with the six metre buffer zone. They are not required to enforce the law on public property such as sidewalks, unless the person is within the control of the owner, manager or lessee (such as a customer or patron) or is an employee.

More restrictive buffer zones are in place in some communities. Please check with your local government for information on the buffer zone requirements in your community.

Can I smoke or vape in my vehicle?

There are two situations when smoking and vaping is not allowed in a vehicle:

  1. When it is your work vehicle: under the Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act, smoking and vaping is banned inside all workplaces, and if you are using a work vehicle, then it is a workplace and you cannot smoke or vape inside it, even if you are the sole occupant.
  2. When someone under the age of 16 is in your vehicle; it is a violation of the Motor Vehicle Act to smoke or vape in any vehicle when youth under 16 are present.

Can I smoke or vape in my home?

Smoking and vaping is restricted in your home when it is another person’s place of work. If workers or service providers, such as homecare workers and trades people, come to work inside your home, WorkSafeBC advises that smoking stop 1 hour before they arrive.

If you live in a multi-unit building, like an apartment, condominium or townhouse, these are two issues to keep in mind:

  1. You cannot smoke or vape within six metres of the doorways, open windows or air intakes that are connected to common areas. Some examples of common areas are he lobby, laundry area or hallways.
  2. Your property may have a non-smoking policy or a lease agreement that further restricts smoking or vaping. Many building are bringing in smoke-free and vapour-free policies. For more information on how to make your home smoke free, please see smokefreehousingbc.ca.

For more information, see BC HealthFile "The Harmful Effects of Second-hand Smoke."

Can I smoke or vape in my hotel room?

In hotels, check with management to find out the smoking or vaping policies within sleeping rooms.

You cannot smoke or vape in the common areas of hotels such as lobbies, hallways, and restaurants. You cannot smoke within six metres of doorways open windows or air intakes around the hotel. Many communities have enhanced smoke-free bylaws that extend the buffer zone. Check with your local community for laws in the area.

What about smoking or vaping on school property?

All public and private kindergarten to Grade 12 schools in B.C. are tobacco and vape-free under the Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act and Regulation. This ban extends to all school property 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, regardless of whether or not school is in session. The ban also includes vehicles, parking lots, sports fields, driveways, courtyards, and private vehicles parked on school property.

There is an exception to the tobacco-free restriction:

  • The ceremonial use of tobacco is exempted from the ban on tobacco use in schools if the ceremonial use is pre-approved by the school board and it is performed in relation to a traditional aboriginal activity.

Is smoking or vaping allowed on health authority property?

The legislation gives Health Authorities the discretion to implement designated outdoor smoking areas that allow tobacco or vapour product use. It is up to health authorities to decide if they will designate an area for the use of one, both or neither of these products.

Exceptions to the law

Vapour products cannot be used on health authority sites except in the following circumstances:

  • Residents and patients of a hospital or residential care facility can use vapour products inside buildings only if there is a designated, specially constructed room that meets the standards set by WorkSafeBC's Occupational Health and Safety Guidelines, Part 4. Only residents and patients can use vapour products in this room – visitors and staff cannot. Health authorities are not required to provide such rooms.
  • If an outdoor designated use area is provided. Health authorities may designate an area as:
    • tobacco use only;
    • vapour products use only; or
    • both tobacco and vapour products.
  • Health authorities are not required to have designated areas for either product.

If patients and residents are concerned about how they will cope without tobacco or vapour products while they are on site, they should speak to facility staff. Nicotine medication can regulate nicotine levels and make the adjustment easier.