The Regional Municipality Of York


Smoke-Free Spaces

Second-hand smoke from burning tobacco products causes disease and death among non-smokers. There is no risk-free level of second-hand smoke, and even short-term exposure can cause harm. Even in an outdoor setting, second-hand smoke can be harmful.

Smoke-free laws are in place to protect your health. Smoke-free spaces reduce exposure to tobacco smoke, prevent youth from starting to smoke, encourage cessation and support recent quitters and denormalize the use of tobacco.

Smoking is restricted in places such as:

  • Workplaces
  • Schools
  • Bars, casinos, restaurants and patios
  • Planes, trains, buses and bus shelters
  • Public beaches
  • Municipally-owned parks and playgrounds

Second-hand and third-hand smoke

Second and third-hand smoke cannot be eliminated by opening windows, using fans, air conditioners, or restricting smoking to certain areas. The only way to protect non-smokers is to create a smoke-free environment.

What is second-hand smoke?

Second-hand smoke is the combination of the smoke exhaled by the person smoking and the smoke that comes from the burning end of a cigarette, cigar or pipe. There are over 7,000 chemicals found in second-hand smoke and up to 70 are known to cause cancer. Second-hand smoke causes disease and death in both smokers and non-smokers. Exposure can cause lung cancer, heart and respiratory disease.

What is third-hand smoke?

Third-hand smoke is the chemicals in tobacco smoke left behind on surfaces. It is trapped in hair, skin, fabric, carpet, furniture and toys, hours or days after a cigarette is put out. It builds up over time and resists normal cleaning. Third-hand smoke is still being studied to determine its possible dangers. It is known that third-hand smoke contains cancer-causing materials. Infants, children and non-smoking adults may be at risk of tobacco related health problems when they inhale, ingest or touch substances containing third-hand smoke.

Protecting Yourself and Others

The effects of second and third-hand smoke on children

Children are especially vulnerable to second and third-hand smoke because their lungs and respiratory system are still developing. They breathe more frequently, which can cause them to absorb higher amounts of smoke than adults. Third-hand smoke becomes attached to dust particles, which can be swallowed by children when they put their hands in their mouth. Infants take in 20 times more third-hand smoke than adults do. Infants and children who are exposed are at greater risk of developing colds and pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma, ear infections, developmental and behavioural problems, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Protecting pets from tobacco

Tobacco smoke has been linked to certain cancers in dogs and cats, allergies in dogs, eye and skin diseases, and respiratory problems in birds.

Reduce your pets’ risk by:

  • Not smoking around them, or exposing them to second-hand smoke
  • Protecting against third-hand smoke by keeping your home and car smoke-free
  • Preventing animals from swallowing cigarette butts which contain toxins
  • Allowing the love for your pet to be motivation to quit smoking

Protect yourself and others from second and third-hand smoke

Support and follow the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, which prohibits smoking in workplaces, enclosed public spaces and in motor vehicles when children under 16 are present. Also support and follow the outdoor smoke-free spaces bylaw in your community, including parks, playgrounds, recreation areas and beaches.

Protect yourself, your family and others from second and third-hand smoke:

  • Stay away from places where people are smoking or usually smoke
  • If you are not ready to quit smoking, cut down
  • If you smoke, do so outdoors and choose a location away from entrances and windows
  • Wear a jacket or a layer of clothing that can be removed after smoking
  • Always wash your hands after smoking
  • Do not smoke around pregnant women, infants, children or teenagers
  • Do not smoke in your family car
  • Opening a window, running a fan or air purifier, or smoking near the chimney will not get rid of second or third-hand smoke
  • Report smoking in areas restricted by the Smoke-Free Ontario Act (SFOA) and other tobacco-related violations by:
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Smoke-free playgrounds and sporting areas

Enhancements to the Smoke-Free Ontario Act came into effect on January 1, 2015. It is now illegal to smoke on or within 20 metres of the perimeter of playgrounds or publicly-owned sports field surfaces that host activities such as soccer, baseball, basketball, cricket, skating, swimming, skateboarding and beach volleyball.

Report smoking in areas restricted by the Smoke-Free Ontario Act (SFOA) and other tobacco-related violations by contacting:

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Smoke-free multi-unit housing

Multi-unit housing refers to buildings with multiple, single unit residences, such as condominiums, apartments and townhomes. Smoke-free multi-unit housing bans smoking anywhere inside the building, including within private units and on balconies.

Smoke-Free Ontario Act and multi-unit housing

The Smoke-Free Ontario Act (SFOA) prohibits smoking in common areas of multi-unit housing such as party rooms, lobby areas, elevators, enclosed parking and laundry facilities. York Region Public Health Tobacco Enforcement Officers may inspect and respond to complaints about smoking violations outlined within the SFOA.

Report smoking in areas restricted by the SFOA and other tobacco-related violations by contacting:

The SFOA does not prohibit smoking inside individual units, on balconies and patios, or around building entrances. This means that people can be exposed to second-hand smoke in multi-unit housing due to drifting smoke from neighbouring units. In 2012, at least a third of residents in multi-unit housing in Ontario reported some tobacco smoke from external sources entering their homes (Source: CAMH Monitor, 2012).

The demand for smoke-free homes is on the rise. Given the choice, eight out of 10 Ontarians living in multi-unit housing would prefer a smoke-free building (Source: Ipsos, 2010).

Benefits of smoke-free multi-unit housing

Benefits of smoke-free multi-unit housing include:

  • A healthier indoor environment for tenants and staff
  • Less second-hand smoke complaints
  • Lower risk of fire
  • Reduced cost of turning over a unit for housing providers

York Region Public Health has resources to help you support the development of a smoke-free policy for your multi-unit housing. York Region Public Health staff can consult with housing providers and property managers to develop smoke-free housing policies, as well as provide quit smoking supports for tenants.

Contact York Region Public Health’s Tobacco-free Living Services at

If you are a tenant or a landlord who is interested in making your multi-unit housing building smoke-free, refer to our factsheets for tenants and landlords.

Additional resources

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Creating a smoke-free workplace

Workplaces are encouraged to support their staff in smoking cessation. By supporting smoking cessation, employers are taking care of their most valuable resource – their employees. Other benefits include:

  • Improved employee health
  • Reduced business costs
  • Increased productivity
  • Improved corporate image
  • Enhanced job satisfaction
  • Compliance with legislation

Promoting smoking cessation in the workplace

Smoking cessation in the workplace includes a comprehensive and facilitated approach as well as education and information.

The activities in a good workplace smoking strategy include health plan design, smoking policies and workplace-based smoking initiatives. The Good Business… better health” guide, outlines a step-by-step approach to achieving a successful workplace smoking cessation strategy.

Tools found in the guide can be adapted for your workplace and printed for your use.

  • A sample smoke-free outdoor policy template (page 13)
  • An employee needs assessment: Smoking cessation in the workplace survey (page 22)
  • A checklist for assessing smoking cessation programs (page 25)

We can help

York Region Public Health is committed to supporting your efforts to create a smoke-free workplace strategy. Our services, provided at no cost, include consultation, education and quit resources.

Consultation is currently offered to assist with needs assessments for staff, communications planning to implement tobacco control policies and access to tobacco cessation tools. Brief Contact Intervention training is offered to interested workplace staff and support is available to any workplace interested in developing a group cessation program.

Determine your goals, level of organizational support and let us help.

Get started today

For more information and consultation with Tobacco-Free Living Services, please contact York Region Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653, TTY 1-866-512-6228.

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