Ontario Bans Smoking in Cars When Children Present

Section 9.2(1) of the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, S.O. 1994, c. 10, came into force today. The section bans smoking in cars when there is a child less than 16 years old in the car:

9.2(1) No person shall smoke tobacco or have lighted tobacco in a motor vehicle while another person who is less than 16 years old is present in the vehicle.

Given that cigarette smoking has close to zero social utility when compared against the known and suspected health risks of cigarette smoking, I say this is a good move (one presumes it may also reduce the risk of driving while distracted).

Today is Weedless Wednesday.


  1. Manitoba’s government has proposed similar legislation, but it has only received first reading so far. It also deals with the use of cellphones while driving.

  2. This is really social engineering disguised as law. While the publicity may help the cause, enforcement will be minimal (or an early term novelty) at best. But the law is pretty interesting from several legal angles. You can be busted even in a convertible. You can be busted even for holding a lit cigarette, even if you’re not puffing and you’re busted if parked, and not moving. Only police, not tobacco enforcement officers, can issue these provincial offence tickets. Interesting too that police chiefs across Ontario were told (in an internal memo you can read on my blog at cancrime.com) that checking for smoking in the car gives police grounds to stop a vehicle. I smell a new civil liberties debate.

  3. I’m not sure if the new Ontario law is perfect, but I am also not sure I understand the statement “this is social engineering disguised as law.” Most law is social engineeering of some sort – whether trying to prevent theft by providing jail sentences for thieves or trying to ensure the population is educated by making attendance at school mandatory.

    What makes a law legitimate, or how can one tell when a social purpose makes a law illegitimate (as Rob suggests)? The new Ontario law is not designed to protect people against themselves, which some people find objectionable, but to protect the vulnerable. Yes, it’s largely against the vulnerable person’s parents, but that is also true of child abuse statutes – are they social engineering disguised as law?

    Has it to do with the likelihood or even the possibility of enforcement? Are symbolic laws all illegitimate? Are laws illegitimate even though they may – because of their form or the respect many people have for the law – affect behaviour positively, even though they are not readily enforceable or not worth the effort to enforce?

    Who decides?

  4. Does this also extend to parents smoking around kids in the home. I just learned that while my young daughter was at a classmate’s birthday party, the mother of the birthday girl was smoking around the kids during the party.

    I did not know until she came home with the smell of cigarette smoke in her hair and clothes. What recourse is there other than not letting her go to that person’s house again?

  5. smoking is a personal choice and a lifestyle choice. A child in someone’s care should not be subjected to someone elses decision to smoke. I feel that the law needs to be extended to not just not smoking in your car but also in a person’s home. There is alot of people who have serious alergies to smoke and it is not being fair to friends and family to smell the stench of a choice a person decided to make all on their own. Be fair and take it outside.

  6. What would the law say about smoking in one’s own home? No smoking without the consent of all smoking-age (in Ontario, 19) people, and none at all if anyone less than 19 is in the house – children of owner or otherwise? Is that enforceable?

    Does the same legal policy extend to other cases of allergies too? Should the law stop me from having a peanut-butter sandwich if there is someone in the house who may be allergic to peanuts? Should any harm done to an allergic person be a matter of civil remedy rather than prohibition?

    How obscure an allergy must be involved before the law should not prohibit conduct that might trigger it? Again, would there be a different standard for prohibition than for civil remedy (which would remain at ‘reasonable foreseeability’, presumably)?

    At some point it is up to people to protect themselves, and their kids – with a reasonableness standard that will vary with the individual circumstances. The original suggestion in this thread was that smoking in one’s own car might already be beyond the reach of the law. Should the police be looking through people’s garbage for cigarette butts too, if the family has kids?

  7. The law at times seems rather confusing. Is it an attempt to provide a safer inviroment for our youth by inacting such a law?, or just another big money grab form of revenue for the government? If you look at most of the laws, bylaws, or requirements will say such as e-testing a vehicle, that are coming out. They seem to be just another way of picking the pockets of the public. The reason I say this is of a news story from the Quinte area. Since this new smoking in a vehicle law came in effect, this area was the first to enforce it. In one incident in perticular, a vehicle was pulled over and the driver was charged for smoking with a 15yr old passenger in the vehicle, but this is where it gets a twist. While the officer was in his vehicle writing up the ticket the 15 yr old passenger exited the vehicle and proceeded to light up a cigarette and smoke it. Point being there was only one fine issued, that was the one for the driver for smoking while the 15 yr old smoker was in the vehicle. Could this be because getting the money from fining a minor is highly unlikly. If it’s really not just another form of revinue, it’s all about prevention and safety then why are they not enforcing the laws more on the young offenders themselves. Have you ever driven past a highschool at lunch time? They even have designated smoking areas.. so with that said is it just an enforceable law on those that can pay the monitary penalty?