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Health unit butts out warnings; will issue fines

The Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Health Unit will phase out warnings for most offences under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, effective July 1, 2011.

Tobacco enforcement officers will now routinely issue Provincial Offences tickets for common violations such as smoking in public or in a workplace (including a work vehicle) and for selling tobacco to a person under 19 years of age.

Warnings may continue to be issued for some other first-time offences, such as failure to post required signage.   Tickets will always be issued for repeat offenses.

“These laws are no longer new,” says Dr. Richard Schabas, medical officer of health. “Selling or supplying tobacco to a person under 19 years of age or selling single cigarettes has been an offense since 1994. The Smoke-Free Ontario Strategy has been in place for five years. The introductory protocol to educate through warnings is no longer appropriate. We’re simply falling into line with the new approach across Ontario.”

The changes were announced at the Hastings & Prince Edward Counties Board of Health meeting in Belleville Wednesday, June 1. Board of health members heard that Health Unit policies and practices will now be aligned with other Eastern Ontario health units such as Kingston, Ottawa and Cornwall.

Fines for Smoke-Free Ontario offences are regulated by the provincial court system. Selling tobacco to a young person can result in a fine to an individual ranging from $365 to $10,000. Lower amounts apply if a ticket is issued. Higher amounts apply if a summons is issued. Fines for corporations can go up to $100,000.

“Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of serious illness and death in Ontario,” says Schabas. “This stricter enforcement policy is intended to protect our community from tobacco’s harmful effects.”

Filed Under: Local News

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