What to expect from a raw leaf tobacco inspection

This page explains the inspection authority, objectives, procedures and consequences under the Ministry of Finance Raw Leaf Tobacco Program. It provides general information only and does not replace the Tobacco Tax Act and Regulations.

This page will be of interest to any person who:

  • produces (i.e., plant, grow, harvest, cure, bale or package) raw leaf tobacco in Ontario
  • processes (i.e., strip, stem, thresh, re‑dry, blend, or package) raw leaf tobacco in Ontario
  • sells or buys raw leaf tobacco in Ontario
  • brings into or takes out of Ontario (import/export) raw leaf tobacco, or
  • transports raw leaf tobacco into or out of Ontario.

Under the Tobacco Tax Act, raw leaf tobacco includes all varieties of unmanufactured tobacco, including flue‑cured, dark‑fire‑cured/dark‑air‑cured (also known as black) and burley tobacco. It does not include seedlings.

Authority for tobacco inspection

Ministry of Finance tobacco inspectors are authorized under the Tobacco Tax Act to inspect any land used to grow tobacco and any location that may have an inventory of raw leaf tobacco. This may include processor facilities, warehouses and other storage locations. The Ministry of Finance regulates all aspects of raw leaf tobacco activity in Ontario. This includes both raw leaf tobacco that was grown in Ontario and raw leaf tobacco that has been imported into Ontario.

Tobacco inspection objectives and process

Part of a Ministry of Finance tobacco inspector's job is to help raw leaf tobacco producers and others to understand their obligations and ensure compliance with the Tobacco Tax Act. Inspectors wear uniforms and will identify themselves by showing Ministry of Finance issued identification. Inspections are not announced or scheduled in advance, and no warrant is needed for the inspection.

Tobacco inspectors follow the Regulator's Code of Practice and must follow service principles and standards which promote a consistent level of service excellence and fairness to all business owners and citizens of Ontario. A raw leaf tobacco inspection may take up to several hours to complete. Inspectors will make every effort not to interrupt the operation of the business. Farm staff may contact farm owners during the inspection, but it will not stop the inspection in progress.

Inspectors will verify locations of lands where tobacco plants are planted, a process which may include measuring the land used to grow tobacco and reviewing aerial surveys of planted fields. Inspectors will also examine facilities used for curing, cutting and storing raw leaf tobacco (e.g., inspecting barns, kilns and warehouses). This includes storage facilities that may belong to another person.

Ministry of Finance inspectors will conduct field visits in a manner that protects industry participant's livelihood (e.g., take necessary precautions to avoid cross‑contamination), ensures all safety procedures are followed and minimizes the impact on operations and staff.

Preparing for an inspection

  • Try to make yourself available. However, it is not a prerequisite that the business owner is present for an inspection.
  • Communicate the tobacco inspection process to any staff that may be present during an inspection so that they are aware of the process and the authority for the inspection.
  • Provide access to inventories, lands and supporting raw leaf tobacco infrastructure.

Seizure of raw leaf tobacco

Ministry officials may seize the raw leaf tobacco from anyone not in compliance with the Tobacco Tax Act. In certain circumstances, you will receive a written notice prior to the Ministry of Finance seizing your raw leaf tobacco. If you receive a written notice that the Ministry of Finance intends to seize your raw leaf tobacco, you may make a written request within 5 days of receiving that notice to have a hearing to explain why the Ministry of Finance should not seize the raw leaf tobacco.

The Tobacco Tax Act provides for penalties and fines for producers who plant more than permitted on their producer registration certificate. Additionally, inspectors may seize raw leaf tobacco not yet harvested and may allow the producer to cut down the raw leaf tobacco not yet harvested. Ministry inspectors may require that the cut down is supervised. All cut downs by the producer is at the risk and expense of the producer. If the Ministry of Finance seizes and disposes of the raw leaf tobacco, it may recover any costs of removal or disposal from the producer.

Notice of intent to destroy

If for any reason you want to destroy raw leaf tobacco, you must inform the Ministry of Finance at least three (3) days before you destroy the tobacco.

Details you must give include:

  • the date of the planned destruction
  • the current location of the raw leaf tobacco to be destroyed and the location where it is to be destroyed
  • the quantity and type of raw leaf tobacco to be destroyed
  • the method of destruction, and
  • the reason for the destruction.

Contact the Ministry of Finance by calling 1‑866‑ONT‑TAXS (1‑866‑668‑8297) extension 16160.

Stolen raw leaf tobacco or damaged crops

In the case of theft of raw leaf tobacco or crop damage, producers are asked to promptly contact the Ministry of Finance by calling 1‑866‑ONT‑TAXS (1‑866‑668‑8297) extension 16160 so that the details of the occurrence may be documented and verified. Supporting documentation may include a copy of any police report or insurance report.

Suspension and cancellation of registration

Your raw leaf tobacco registration certificate(s) may be suspended or cancelled for many reasons, including:

  • providing false or misleading information
  • breaching your conditions and restrictions, or
  • otherwise not complying with the Tobacco Tax Act.

If the Ministry of Finance intends to suspend or cancel your registration certificate, under the Tobacco Tax Act you have the opportunity to request a show‑cause hearing with the Ministry of Finance to allow you to raise your concerns and request a re‑evaluation of the Ministry of Finance's intention.

Request for written interpretations

To obtain a written interpretation on a specific situation, please send your request in writing to:

Ministry of Finance
Advisory Section
33 King Street West, 3rd Floor
Oshawa ON L1H 8H5

Related articles

Articles providing further details on this topic include:

For more information

Visit ontario.ca/finance or contact the Ministry of Finance at 1‑866‑ONT‑TAXS (1‑866‑668‑8297) extension 16160 or 1‑800‑263‑7776 for teletypewriter (TTY).

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