The Tobacco Control Act prohibits the sale of cigarettes to youth

Youth smoking permitted under provincial Tobacco Control Act

The Tobacco Control Act prohibits the sale of cigarettes to youth, but does not prohibit youth from smoking.

You can see the signs in any establishment that sells tobacco products stating that they cannot sell cigarettes to minors. What you may not know, is that those signs do not mean that minors cannot smoke.

“I thought that was interesting what’s allowed and what’s not,” said Const. Mike Hull with the Golden RCMP.

He has had inquiries lately regarding what to do about youth smoking in the downtown area, especially around the entrances of businesses. But given the laws set forth in the provincial Tobacco Control Act, there is little that can be done.

As is stated in the act, “A person must not sell, offer for sale, provide or distribute tobacco to an individual who has not reached the age specified by regulation.” (In British Columbia that age is 19).

It does not, however, state that a person under the specified age is prohibited from using those tobacco products. There is a $575 fine to anyone caught selling tobacco to a person under the age of 19, yet no fine for any person under the age of 19 smoking. Police officers also do not have the authority to confiscate any tobacco products, given that they are entirely legal, even for minors.

“There’s no smoking within three metres of any doorway or open window, so if I see any youth, or anyone really, smoking right in front of a business, I can tell them to move,” said Hull.

Authorities are also able to issue tickets to anyone smoking on or within three metres of school property, meaning that any smoking pit on school property is in contravention of the act.

It is not too often that any ticket is issued through the Tobacco Control Act says Hull, and one of the most common ticketable offences regarding smoking is actually issued through the Motor Vehicle Act.

It is illegal to smoke in a vehicle when youth under 16 years of age are present. Yet it is not illegal for youth under 16 years of age to stand outside and smoke on their own.

For more than a century, Canada has recognized the need to protect youth from the harmful effects of tobacco. The first law making it illegal to sell cigarettes to youth under 16 was passed in 1908. The age was raised to 18 in 1993 (although individual provinces can choose to make that age higher).

In more recent years laws have been passed banning smoking in public places, work places, and enclosed spaces.

Every province and state has slightly different regulations regarding tobacco. Kansas, for example, bans the possession of tobacco for anyone under the age of 18, and can fine minors $25, and require them to appear before the court with a parent or guardian.