Legislation is a key tool in reducing tobacco and vapour product use and protecting youth from accessing tobacco and vapour products. Legislation also protects people from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke and vapour emissions. In British Columbia, the sale and use of tobacco and vapour products is governed by a variety of laws, including:
Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act
The Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act and the Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Regulation regulate the use, sale and display of tobacco products. This legislation covers the following areas:
- Restrictions on the sale, distribution and advertising or promotion of tobacco and vapour products including prohibiting sale of tobacco and vapour products to minors under 19 years of age, prohibiting sale of cigarettes in packages of less than twenty, and requiring warning signs at points of sale
- Restrictions on where tobacco and vapour products may be sold, offered for sale or distributed
- Restrictions on where tobacco and vapour products may be used
- Bans smoking and vaping in indoor public and workplaces and bans all tobacco and vapour use in schools and on school grounds
- Restrictions on the retail display of tobacco and vapour products and the advertising or promotion of the use of tobacco and vapour products
- Specifying the powers of enforcement officers, and their right to seize and detain items that may constitute evidence of a tobacco or vapour product contravention or an offence.
Public Health Act
- E-substances that contain non-therapeutic nicotine
- E-substances that do not contain nicotine, nicotine salts or cannabis
- Vapour products with contain “non-therapeutic nicotine”. This term refers to nicotine which is not in the form of a drug for which a prescription is required for a product, such as nicotine gum or lozenge, which is intended to be used or consumed for tobacco reduction or cessation purposes
Prescribing these health hazards allows public health officials to better manage the risk of harm they pose, particularly to youth. This means that the sale of E-substances by a retailer to a purchaser is a regulated activity under the Public Health Act.
The E-Substances Regulation introduced new restrictions on the sale, distribution, and packaging of vapour products as well as new reporting requirements for vapour product retailers. For more details on the new laws, please read the Requirements under the B.C.’s E-Substances Regulation: Retailers’ Guide (PDF)
Tobacco Tax Act
Tobacco taxes are a key deterrent for preventing youth from smoking. Tobacco taxes are also effective in the reduction of overall tobacco use. The restrictions on youth access and promotion and display of tobacco and tobacco products are based on research that illustrates how few people start smoking as adults.
The Ministry of Finance is responsible for administering the Tobacco Tax Act and the Tobacco Tax Act Regulation. Retailers who wish to sell tobacco must apply for a Tobacco Retailer Authorization (TRA) Certificate (PDF, 264KB). A separate certificate is required for each location where tobacco is sold.
While the Ministry of Finance’s focus is the registration and tax aspects of tobacco sales, there may be overlap with the work of tobacco enforcement officers when someone violates these statutes. Tobacco enforcement officers’ investigations may include examining sales records, inventory records, tobacco stamps and tear tapes on inventory. The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance are legally entitled to exchange information regarding authorized tobacco retailers in British Columbia.
Other Tobacco Related Laws
In addition to the Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act and the Tobacco Tax Act, there are other laws in B.C. that affect the usage of tobacco products. These laws include the following:
Motor Vehicle Act
B.C.'s Motor Vehicle Act protects children under the age of 16 from second-hand smoke by prohibiting smoking in motor vehicles.
Community Care and Assisted Living Act, Residential Care Regulation (Section 23)
B.C.’s Residential Care Regulation restricts smoking at residential care facilities.
Community Care and Assisted Living Act, Child Care Licensing Regulation, Section 13 (3)
B.C.’s Child Care Licensing Regulation restricts smoking at licensed child care facilities.
British Columbia Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Regulation, Part 4
B.C.'s Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Regulation governs smoking and second-hand smoke in the workplace.
Federal Tobacco Act and Regulations
Canada's Tobacco and Vapour Products Act and Regulations aim to protect the health of Canadians by regulating the manufacture, labelling, sales, displaying and advertising of all tobacco products across Canada.
Local Government Bylaws
Many local governments in British Columbia have additional tobacco laws. Please check with your local government for details.