| Jan 27, 2009

Back to HomeLegalese - January 29, 2009 New year: New Laws

by Susan Irwin, Lawyer/Executive Director, Rural Legal Services

Most people will never even notice the many statutes, regulations and by-laws that are constantly being generated by our federal, provincial and municipal governments. An incredible volume of new rules are necessary just to maintain the business of governing and are mainly of interest to public servants, accountants, businessmen and lawyers.

And then there are the laws and regulations that are aimed at specific problems that get a lot of media attention, and don’t require a lawyer on retainer to be interpreted. One example was the change in Ontario law that allowed police officers to suspend the licences and seize the vehicles of people racing on Ontario highways. To date, hundreds of motorists driving 50 km/h or more over the speed limit have found themselves walking and facing thousands of dollars of fines under amendments to the Highway Traffic Act targeting people who simply won’t slow down.

New this year is a law targeting smokers who have children in their motor vehicles as part of the province’s Smoke Free Ontario initiative. It’s a simple rule: if a driver or any passenger smoke or have “lighted tobacco” in a motor vehicle “while another person who is less than 16 years old is present in the vehicle” you have broken the law, period. Anticipate a fine of up to $250.00.

To make sure drivers get the message, the government has specifically given police officers the power to enforce this new section of the “Smoke-Free Ontario Act” (SFOA). If an officer thinks there is a young person in the car with you and suspects there is smoking going on, you may be stopped. The officer doesn’t have to prove the age of the young person to support a conviction, so long as he or she “honestly and reasonably” believed that the young person in the car was less than 16 years old.

Bear in mind also that the motor vehicle doesn’t have to be moving and it doesn’t matter if the windows are down. So if you pull over for a smoke, or if you are in a parking lot and feel the need, get out of the car!

This amendment to the SFOA effectively closes the door on one more popular smoking venue. Over the past 15 years as public policy has definitely turned against smoking, the legislation has grown in scope significantly. Supported by evidence of the danger of second hand smoke, SFOA has been expanded to limit smoking in offices, restaurants, bars, schools, day care centres, hospitals, and so on, while at the same time putting serious restrictions on the sale of tobacco products. For an idea of how the Act may affect you, or protect you, go to www.mhp.gov.ca/english/health/smoke_free/stakeholders.asp .

It’s true that smoking tobacco isn’t illegal, nor is buying tobacco products if you are 19 years of age or older. However, as where you can smoke is becoming more and more restricted, perhaps 2009 is the year to quit.

Of course we can’t help you with that problem, but if you want information on the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, whether or not you are a smoker, we can help.

Legalese is a column of general information and opinion on legal topics by the lawyers of Rural Legal Services, Box 359, Sharbot Lake, ON, K0H2P0, 613-279-3252, or 1-888-777-8916. This column is not intended to provide legal advice. You should contact a lawyer to determine your legal rights and obligations.

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