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Middlesex-London Health Unit

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Traditional Tobacco Use by Indigenous Persons

In many Indigenous communities, people have been using traditional or sacred tobacco for thousands of years. Traditional or sacred tobacco differs from commercial tobacco in that it is used in ceremonial or sacred rituals for healing and purifying.1

There are many differences between traditional tobacco and commercial tobacco. The Aboriginal Tobacco Program website describes these differences as well as a few of the uses for traditional tobacco.

Under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017, individuals are not permitted to smoke in enclosed workplaces or enclosed public places in Ontario. However, there is an exemption that states Indigenous people have the right to use tobacco, so long as the tobacco is being used for traditional, cultural or spiritual purposes.2 More information about this exemption can be found on the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 Fact Sheet, How the Act Affects Traditional Use of Tobacco by Indigenous Persons (PDF 178KB).

For more information, please contact the Tobacco Control Team:

Date of creation: February 28, 2013
Last modified on: November 19, 2018


1Cancer Care Ontario. (2018) Aboriginal Tobacco Program. Retrieved from
2Government of Ontario. (2018). Where you can’t smoke or vape in Ontario. Retrieved from