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Promoting and Protecting Smoke-Free and Vapour-Free Spaces

There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
Smoke and vapour-free spaces protect you, your loved ones, and your community!

What are secondhand smoke and aerosol (vapour)? 

Secondhand smoke (SHS) is created when a cigarette (or other lit commercial tobacco product) is burned and breathed out by someone who is smoking. Secondhand vapour (which is actually an aerosol) is what is breathed out when someone is using an e-cigarette (or other vapour device).

The chemicals in secondhand smoke or aerosol vary based on the product used (cigarette, e-cigarette, cannabis, etc.) and whether the product is heated or burned.

When it comes to secondhand smoke, you can usually see or smell the smoke but what you can't see is the 7,000+ chemicals in the smoke including 70 that cause cancer. Secondhand smoke is filled with toxic chemicals like formaldhyde, benzene, chromium, nickel, vinyl chloride, arsenic, and carbon monoxide. There is no safe level of exposure.

Children are especially at risk from exposure to SHS because:

  • they breathe more air relative to body weight and as a result absorb more tobacco smoke toxins;
  • their immune systems are less protective; and 
  • they often can't speak for themselves or their complaints are ignored by adults.

Among children, exposure to SHS has been linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS); croup, pneumonia, tonsilitis; middle ear infections; increased asthma attacks and severity; childhood cancers and leukemia; slower growth; and poor attention span.

We don't know as much about secondhand aerosol (vapour) yet, but we do know the aerosol exhaled is NOT just harmless water vapour. It's a mixture of many small particles and chemicals, which is not safe for lungs to inhale.

Provincial laws and smoke and vapour-free policies help protect you, your loved ones, and your community from secondhand smoke and aerosol. Further, federal laws regulate smoke-free and vape-free spaces in federally-regulated public places and workplaces in our communities and municipal bylaws are often in place to protect residents and visitors from the harms of smoking and vaping.

To protect from secondhand commercial tobacco smoke and aerosol including cannabis, the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 bans all smoking and vaping in workplaces and public places, including:


  • In all enclosed public places, workplaces, schools, and in vehicles carrying children under 16 years of age. (Note: cannabis use is banned at all times in vehicles and/or boats being driven or under someone's care and control).
  • In all common areas of multi-unit housing buildings, and in places where home child care is provided.
  • In all places where an early years program or service is provided.
  • In a home where home health care workers work. 


  • On hospital property or psychiatric facility grounds and within nine metres of an entrance.
  • On bar and restaurant patios and within nine metres of the patio. 
  • On the grounds of schools and community recreational facilities, and public areas within 20 metres of the grounds.
  • On playgrounds and publicly owned sporting areas (including spectator areas), and public areas within 20 metres of those locations.
  • On outdoor licensed areas of child care centres.
  • On reserved outdoor seating areas at a sports arena or entertainment venue.
  • Outdoor shelters that have more than two walls and a roof (i.e. bus shelter or smoking shelter with three walls and a roof).

If you live in an apartment or condominium and have neighbours that smoke, you may have exposure to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke can enter through shared ventilation, open windows and balcony doors, and through electrical receptacles and other openings such as gaps around plumbing pipes.

Tenants, landlords, and condo boards can find resources to support their transition to smoke-free housing on the health unit's website here.

Unlike elementary and secondary school properties, current laws do not protect students, staff, and faculty at Ontario's college and university campuses from secondhand smoke and aerosol. It is currently up to each college or university to implement their own policy, setting rules for commercial tobacco, vaping, and cannabis use on campus grounds.

By creating smoke and vapour-free post-secondary campuses, we can help young adults stay free of all types of smoke and vaping, protect others from secondhand smoke and aerosol, and support and encourage cessation among students, staff, and faculty.

Learn more and get your campus involved. Visit

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