News Releases

December 8, 2003.  

Exposing workers to cigarette smoke could be a criminal offence

Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada welcomed Parliament’s adoption of  Bill C-45, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal liability of organizations), that now requires employers and managers to take “reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm” in the workplace. 

The new law, which received Royal Assent on November 7, 2003 adds the following new obligation to the Criminal Code in Section 217.1:

"Every one who undertakes, or has the authority, to direct how another person does work or performs a task is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task."

"Smoking in the workplace is probably the largest single unsolved health and safety issue in Canadian workplaces,” said Neil Collishaw, PSC's research director.  “Employees who are obliged to inhale other people’s tobacco smoke at work are almost certain to suffer bodily harm, as it is defined in the Criminal Code (any hurt or injury to a person that interferes with the health or comfort of the person and that is more than merely transient or trifling in nature.’).  Exposure to second-hand smoke at work causes cancer, heart disease and other diseases that are for more than ‘merely transient or trifling in nature,’” observed Mr. Collishaw. These illnesses, and criminal liability, can be avoided if employers take the reasonable measure of banning smoking on their premises.

"Unlike labour law, this law applies equally across Canada, giving all workers and all Canadians a new mechanism to ensure the protection of their health and safety," said Neil Collishaw.  “Employers and managers who move quickly to ban smoking on their premises will not only be protecting their workers, but they will also be protecting themselves from potential criminal liability for failure to provide a healthy workplace,” he concluded.


 For information:   Cynthia Callard, Executive Director. 

1 613 233 4878

 Questions and Answers about Bill C-45 ("The Westray Bill") and Second-Hand Smoke in the Workplace