Guidelines for registration as a tobacconist
Learn the rules that tobacconists must follow and find out how to register as a tobacconist through your local public health unit.
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A tobacconist is a retail store that is registered with its local public health unit and primarily sells specialty tobacco products, including:
- pipe tobacco
- heat-not-burn devices
- heat-not-burn tobacco (heat sticks or capsules)
- cigar clips
Specialty tobacco products do not include cigarettes as defined in the Tobacco Tax Act and regulations under that Act.
Registered tobacconists have an exemption under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 for:
- displaying and promoting specialty tobacco products
- holding an activated e-cigarette that contains tobacco for the purposes of testing the e-cigarette or showing customers how to activate the device
To register as a tobacconist, contact your local public health unit.
All retailers who operate a tobacconist store must comply with the laws in the Smoke-free Ontario Act, 2017 and the regulation.
To register as a tobacconist for a specific location, a store must meet the required criteria.
Rules about sales and inventory
Businesses must meet these rules to register and stay registered as a tobacconist.
Tobacconists registered on or after January 1, 2020
If a tobacconist registers with its local public health unit on or after January 1, 2020:
- at least 85% of the store's total sales from the previous 12 months must consist of specialty tobacco products
If the store has been in operation for less than one year then either:
- a minimum of 85% of the total inventory purchases for the time it has been in operation must consist of specialty tobacco products
- a minimum of 85% of the total sales for the time it has been in existence must consist of specialty tobacco products
The remaining sales or inventory must be from cigarettes or other items reasonably associated with a tobacco product, branded with the name of the tobacconist or a brand of tobacco. Acceptable items can include:
- branded clothing or accessories
- branded water bottles or food items
- branded coffee cups
- carrying cases, such as tobacco tins
Tobacconists registered before January 1, 2020
If a tobacconist registers with its local public health unit before January 1, 2020:
- at least 50% of the store's inventory at the time of registration must consist of specialty tobacco products
- for every 12 month period after registering, at least 50% of the store's sales must consist of specialty tobacco products
There are no restrictions on the remaining sales and inventory.
Rules for all tobacconists
All tobacconists must follow these rules:
- People younger than age 19 are not allowed to enter the store, other than the owner, employees or a support person accompanying a person with a disability who is at least 19 years old
- Specialty tobacco products and promotions cannot be visible from outside the store at any time of day
- The store must be a building or located inside a building
- Customers can only enter the store from the outdoors or from an area of an enclosed shopping mall that is:
- open to the public
- open to most other businesses, for example a mall concourse
- not part of another business in the mall (customers cannot enter the tobacconist from another store)
- The store must not be a passageway (a path forming a route between two places)
Rules for in-store testing
You are allowed to turn on an e-cigarette containing tobacco in-store if:
- you are demonstrating how to turn on the device
- no vapour is inhaled or exhaled
Rules about displaying and promoting vapour products
In Ontario, only businesses registered as a specialty vape store are allowed to promote or display vapour products. This rule applies to heat-not-burn e-cigarette devices intended for use with tobacco that are packaged without the tobacco component.
Learn about the rules that retailers must follow on the promotion of vapour products.
Heat-not-burn e-cigarette containing tobacco and tobacco components on their own, can only be displayed and promoted if the business is a registered tobacconist. The tobacconist must follow the rules about sales and inventory.
As of January 1, 2020, a tobacconist can provide information about the vapour products they sell and their price only through informational signs and documents that comply with the rules.
All informational signs must:
- be no more than 968 square centimetres in area
- have a white background
- have only black text and graphics
- not include a text or graphic that identifies or reflects a brand of vapour product or any element of such a brand
Stores can post up to three informational signs about vapour products.
All informational documents:
- can only be made available for viewing inside the store
- cannot be removed from the store
The retailer must make sure that the document is not viewed by anyone who is less than 19 years old, other than the owner or occupier of the store or an employee.
A person who appears to be less than 25 years old must provide identification to prove that they are at least 19 years old before reading any informational documents.
Age-based sales restrictions
Before selling tobacco or vapour products to anyone who appears to be less than 25 years old, a retailer must request identification and be satisfied that the person is at least 19 years old.
Acceptable identification must include a photograph of the person, the person's date of birth, and reasonably appear to have been issued by a government or the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO).
Examples of acceptable identification are:
- Ontario driver's license
- Canadian passport
- Canadian citizenship
- Canadian Armed Forces identification card
- Ontario photo card
- Liquor Control Board of Ontario photo card
You must post "no smoking" and "no vaping" signs, or a dual "no smoking" and "no vaping" sign at all entrances, exits and washrooms. The signs must be in appropriate locations and sufficient numbers, to ensure that everyone knows that smoking and vaping is prohibited inside the store.
All stores that sell tobacco products must post the:
- Tobacco Product Age Restriction sign
- Tobacco Product Identification sign
These signs must be in clear view of the seller and customer at the point of sale.
Vapour product retailers
All stores that sell vapour products must post the:
- Vapour Product Age Restriction sign
- Vapour Product Identification sign
These signs must be in clear view of the seller and customer at the point of sale.
Vapour product retailers include stores that sell e-cigarettes for use with a tobacco product (heat-not-burn devices).
You can order signs from your local public health unit, or you can download and print the signs online.
Register as a tobacconist
Step 1: complete the application form
Review and complete the application form for registration as a tobacconist.
Step 2: get a statement of professional accountant
A Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA), or an authorized CPA firm, must sign and complete the statement of professional accountant section of the application form to prove that the store is following the rules about sales and inventory.
The accountant must determine the percentage of specialty tobacco products in the store's total sales or inventory. There are different rules about the amount of specialty tobacco products depending on when the tobacconist registers.
The CPA must have a Chartered Professional Accountant designation. To find a Chartered Professional Accountant or a CPA firm, please contact:
Step 3: submit the application
Submit your completed application to the local board of health for the public health unit where the store is located.
You must submit a complete and accurate application before the local board of health can begin to process the registration request.
- When you submit the application, you are agreeing that the board of health can ask you to submit records: that the application and continuing registration are based on
- at any time during the application process or following registration
Misrepresentation made in an application can result in a decision to decline the application or revoke a registration.
Change of information
You must report all changes to the information that you submitted on your application.
If there is a change in address or in store ownership you must submit a new application. You must report all other changes to your local board of health.
To get more information about registration, please contact the local board of health where your business is located.