York Region a leader in supporting smoke-free environments
NEWMARKET – The Regional Municipality of York today marks the one-year anniversary of the Smoke-Free Ontario Act (SFOA). This Act prohibits smoking in all enclosed workplaces and enclosed public places across Ontario and also includes measures to strengthen restrictions for youth access to tobacco products, which includes prohibiting vendors who contravene the law from selling tobacco products.
"York Region is a leader considering, in 2001, we were one of the first municipalities to start implementing a no-smoking bylaw," said York Region Chairman and CEO Bill Fisch. "However, there are areas where we can make improvements and achieve our goal of 100-per cent compliance in York Region."
Over the past year, the York Region Health Services department conducted regular public health inspections of enclosed workplaces and enclosed public places. In addition, tobacco vendors were checked several times throughout the year to ensure they were not selling tobacco products to minors, maintaining compliance with the SFOA.
"I am proud of the tremendous support we have received from residents and businesses alike on this important health issue as well as York Region's pivotal role in helping to make Ontario a smoke free province," said City of Vaughan Regional Councillor Joyce Frustaglio, Chair of the Region's Health and Emergency Medical Services Committee. "People should be aware that limiting youth access to tobacco products continues to be a problem since some vendors continue to sell tobacco products to youths under the age of 19."
Compliance checks conducted between January and May of 2007 indicate that 12 per cent of York Region tobacco vendors were willing to sell tobacco products to underage youth. This represents a two-per cent decrease over the same period in 2006 when under the Tobacco Control Act, 1994.
"Restricting youth access to tobacco is vital to preventing youth from starting to smoke. Between 80 to 90 per cent of smokers start this deadly habit before the age of 18, at a time when many youth are not thinking about the long-term effects," said Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region's Acting Medical Officer of Health and Director of Public Health Programs. "Smoking-related diseases such as heart attack, stroke, lung cancer and emphysema, claim the lives of approximately 50 per cent of smokers, significantly shortening their lives and restricting their lifestyle."
During the past three weeks, the first notices of prohibition under the new legislation were delivered in York Region to four tobacco vendors. The tobacco prohibition orders, issued by the Ontario Minister of Health Promotion, were served as a result of non-compliance with the SFOA that prohibits the sale or supply of tobacco products to minors under the age of 19. As a result of a history of non-compliance, the following vendors will be under six-month prohibitions:
• Leslie Variety and Gift - 17830 Leslie Street, Town of Newmarket
• Oriental Food Mart - 1661 Denison Street, Town of Markham
• Brown Hill Variety - 22625 Highway 48, Town of Georgina
• Yorktown Convenience - 70 Davis Drive, Town of Newmarket
Following Ministry of Health Promotion protocol, tobacco vendors are tested to determine their willingness to sell tobacco products to underage youth. Test shoppers, aged 15 to 17 years old, are employed by York Region Health Services to assist with the compliance checks. They enter the selected stores and attempt to purchase tobacco. If a sale occurs, a tobacco enforcement officer then enters the premise, educates the owner and clerks about the legislation and lays charges, when appropriate.
Tobacco vendors with two or more convictions within a five-year period are subject to a prohibition order under the SFOA. The notice of prohibition excludes the vendor from selling or storing tobacco products and bans all tobacco wholesalers or distributors from delivering tobacco products to the vendor for the period of time indicated on the order. In addition, all tobacco products must be removed from the premise. Finally, in accordance with the SFOA regulations, signage indicating the reason for the prohibition must be publicly posted in the premise.
As of May 31, 2008, the final instalment of the SFOA will include a complete retail display ban of all tobacco products.
York Region Health Services, with funding from the Ministry of Health Promotion, is currently engaged in youth tobacco prevention programs, such as York YEL!T and High School Grants. The key goals of these programs are to educate and raise awareness with youth about tobacco use and tobacco industry marketing tactics.
The Region also encourages residents to call and report any vendor that they see selling to under age youth. All calls are confidential.
To report a vendor or for more information on the Smoke-Free Ontario Act or any other health-related topic, contact York Region Health Services Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653.
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Media Contact: Jennifer Mitchell-Emmerson, Health Educator - Media, York Region Health Services
Phone: 905 830-4444, ext. 4016 or After-hours Cell: 905 716-2717