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Enforcement of the SFOA, 2017 On or Near School Property

The Law: Tobacco, Vaping, and Cannabis

In Ontario, the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 (SFOA, 2017) regulates the smoking and vaping of tobacco, electronic cigarettes (vapour products), and cannabis (medical and recreational) to protect the people of Ontario, especially youth, from the harms of tobacco, vapour products, and secondhand cannabis smoke. Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit Tobacco Enforcement Officers enforce the SFOA, 2017 throughout the health unit including on and near school property. The health unit's Smoke-Free Program includes a team that plans initiatives to prevent youth from starting to vape and direct youth who vape to resources to help them cut back or quit. More information can be found here

Enforcement of the SFOA, 2017 on and near school property is governed by provincial standards and protocols, health unit policy and procedures, and in partnership with each school board and individual school administrators. 

In Canada, vaping (and smoking tobacco), including vaping and smoking of cannabis, are regulated under a number of public health and consumer protection laws, however, the primary federal piece of legislation to address vaping and smoking is called the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act. It was enacted to regulate the manufacture, sale, labelling, and promotion of tobacco products and vaping products sold in Canada. Vaping and vaping products became legal with a range of legal requirements including a minimum age to purchase, market, and manufacture. 

Schools are an important part of the SFOA, 2017: 

  • Selling or supplying tobacco or vapour products to a young person under the age of 19 at school can result in fines starting at $490. This includes when a friend shares tobacco or vapour products with a friend under the age of 19. If an adult, including a parent, purchases tobacco or vapour products for a child or young person under the age of 19, they can also be charged under the same provisions. If cigarettes or vapour products are being sold from a locker or car, the person involved can be charged with a range of offences with fines starting at $365 for selling restricted products in a prohibited place and related offences with fines starting at $490.
  • Smoking and vaping on school property, including smoking and vaping of cannabis, is prohibited at all times. This includes smoking or vaping on public areas within 20 metres of the school's grounds. Fines start at $305 for smoking or vaping on or near school property.

Please see expander bars below the SFOA, 2017 school witness report expander bar for guidance on how to complete the report, information on the justice system and minors, how to order smoke-free and vape-free signs for your school, and other smoking and vaping topics for school administrators. Please note: once you have started filling information into the school witness report form, please continue without exiting or moving to and from the form page as content can be lost.

For staff and school administrators completing the school witness report, you acknowledge that you will be called as a witness in the event of a trial.

Minors between the ages of 12 and 16 cannot be charged without prior consultation with SMDHU Tobacco Enforcement Program staff: see expander bar below regarding minors.

The school witness report should only be completed after school and/or if board disciplinary actions have been taken.

This form data is intended only for the use of the named addressee and may contain information that is confidential or privileged. You are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution, or copying of this form data is strictly prohibited.

We only accept and process school witness reports for Simcoe County and the District of Muskoka schools.

Only submit the report once. To prevent resubmission, please close your browser.

Submissions are processed in the order of submission dates. Our turnaround time is 3-4 business days from the date of submission. You will receive an email receipt immediately and follow-up notification once your matter has been assigned to a Tobacco Enforcement Officer. Your submission is assigned a unique ID number for tracking purposes.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit collects personal information in the course of doing business. Personal information about you is collected directly from you or from the person acting on your behalf. Personal health information collected may include, for example, your name, date of birth, address, contact information, health card number, health history, and information you provide during visits or calls to the health unit.

Tips on Completing the SFOA School Witness Report

The SFOA school witness report is an important part of the enforcement process for smoke-free and vape-free schools as it provides a statement which the Tobacco Enforcement Officer will rely upon to provide further education, a warning, or a ticket. The completed report will form part of a crown brief for court if the defendant chooses to proceed to court. In light of this, please ensure that the information you enter is as accurate as possible and addresses the 5Ws: Who, What, Where, When, and Why.

Step 1

Gather the required information:

Who was involved in the incident? i.e., name of student(s) and how the student identity was verified; other persons involved (include their names).

What happened? i.e., describe what you saw, heard, smelt (vapour, secondhand smoke), or any relevant conversation.

Where did the incident occur? i.e., inside male/female student washroom located next to the library.

When did the incident occur? i.e., date and time.

Why did the incident occur? i.e., ongoing vaping by same student inside the school.

Step 2

Use the facts gathered above to describe what you saw during the incident and the actions you took. The statement in the school witness report web form may be written in the first person. The information you provide will be included in the health unit's legal brief in the event the defendant chooses to proceed to court.

Sample Witness Statement (the content below is a sample statement which can be modified and put in the witness statement section on the web form)

This is the witness statement of _________ (enter your name). On _________, 2022, I was employed by the __________ School Board as a __________ at __________ School located at _________ (enter date, board name, position, school name, and school address). On this day, one of my responsibilities was to patrol school washroom facilities to monitor for smoking and/or vaping inside the bathrooms. On the date in question, I proceeded to enter the male/female washroom located next to the library at ________ AM/PM (enter time of day). When I entered the washroom, I observed student __________ (enter name of student) standing in the public area of the washroom. I observed him/her/them with a silver-coloured vaping device in their left hand. I observed him/her/them lower the vaping device away from their mouth and expel vapour/smoke out of their mouth (enter observation of what occurred). (Other observations: i.e., the smell of strawberry vapour was present inside the washroom). I also observed signs posted inside the washroom that read "no smoking/no vaping". I advised _________ that vaping/smoking inside the washroom is not permitted, and I escorted him/her/them to the administration office. I spoke with Principal/Vice Principal _________ and advised him/her/them of the incident of ________ vaping/smoking inside the washroom. At this time, I verified the student's identity with the school's enrollment records. End of incident.

___________ (enter name of witness)

Please click on the following link to access the SFOA School Witness Report Web Form.

The health unit's Tobacco Enforcement Program attends schools routinely in the County of Simcoe and the District of Muskoka to ensure compliance with the SFOA, 2017 including compliance with smoking and vaping on or near school property (including smoking or vaping of cannabis), that smoke-free and vape-free signs are posted as required, and to assist school administrators and teachers in ensuring students do not have access to tobacco or vapour products from others.

Once a school has exhausted all internal progressive discipline and consultations in relation to ongoing SFOA, 2017 offences (including school discipline programming i.e., assignments, services, student meeting(s) with school administrators, potential parental involvement, counselling referral including for cessation and addictions treatment and mental health, detention, suspension, expulsion, or other) the school administrator can involve the health unit via the school witness report linked in the first expander bar above. The assigned Tobacco Enforcement Officer will follow-up with the school administrator to discuss education and enforcement options including:

A) issuing a formal warning in the event the health unit has not been involved with the student before and other factors including the age of the student and the determination of the school administrator that a warning is required; or

B) issuing a ticket (provincial offences notice) to the student due to the prior involvement of the health unit and other factors including involvement of other law enforcement agencies, willful and ongoing disobedience by the student, and the determination of the school administrator.

The Tobacco Enforcement Officer will attend the school to meet with the school administrator and any staff person involved for a brief consultation prior to bringing in the student. The school administrator will remain for the meeting with the student. The Tobacco Enforcement Officer will formally identify themselves to the student, review the offence with the student ensuring the student understands the offence and the enforcement steps, answer any questions from the student and school administrator, and issue the warning or ticket to the student in the presence of the school administrator.  

Young persons 12 years of age or more and under 17 are a defined category of offenders under Ontario's Provincial Offences Act. Young persons aged 12-16, including school students aged 12-16 cannot be charged for smoking or vaping on school property or other offences without a prior consultation with SMDHU Tobacco Enforcement Program staff. No person under the age of 12 can be convicted of a provincial offence.

It is important that school administrators are aware of the following when considering charge(s) against a young person:

  • The identity of the young person is not to be published or made known in the community with related fines under the Provincial Offences Act set at $10,000 or less should the young person's identity be released (i.e., if the school or staff person mistakenly shared the name resulting in the young person's identity becoming known in the community related to their offence).
  • The parent or adult with whom the young person ordinarily resides with must be notified of the offence as required by the Provincial Offences Act.
  • Young persons who are charged under the SFOA, 2017 in the County of Simcoe or District of Muskoka are diverted to youth criminal court. Delays therefore can be common with matters not returning to the court for 6 months to a year. 
  • Due to the diversion to youth criminal court, the Tobacco Enforcement Officer will meet with a crown attorney who will ensure the following has been documented in the school's file and shared with the health unit:

1.  That the school and school board have exhausted all internal discipline options including activating the school's relevant progressive discipline program (i.e., assignments, detention, services by the student at the school, suspension, etc.);

2.  That the health unit has already issued a prior formal warning to the young person; 

3.  That the school or school board have offered or have provided counselling (i.e., cessation, addiction, and mental health counselling services) to the young person; and

4.  That an opportunity for the young person (and their parent or guardian as appropriate) has been offered to meet with school staff and the health unit so as to discuss alternatives to the justice system in obtaining compliance with the SFOA, 2017.

The crown attorney may then direct the matter to progress to a charge or may stipulate further or more diversion actions by the school and health unit before permitting a charge to be laid.

The SFOA, 2017 requires all workplaces and public places, including schools, to post smoke-free / vape-free signs at all entrances, exits, and washrooms (including staff washrooms), as well as on school property. The signs are available at no cost. Please inquire with the Tobacco Enforcement Officer at any time to obtain more signs for your school. Signs can also be ordered directly from the health unit by calling Health Connection at 705-721-7520 (1-877-721-7520), Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For sample signs and more information from the Province of Ontario, please click here.

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