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Protecting children from passive smoking in their home

 Statement from Professor John Middleton, President of the Faculty of Public Health


Following the Sunday times article on smoking in social houses, the Faculty of Public Health (FPH) makes the following clarification for editors. The call to introduce voluntary agreements not to smoke in new tenancies in new properties opened by social landlords (housing associations and some councils) was not proposing a blanket ban on smoking in council estates as some reports suggested.

For children, the majority of exposure to second-hand smoke happens in the home where it can spread throughout, even if you open the windows. It is particularly dangerous for children, who, when exposed to passive smoke are at higher risk of respiratory infections, asthma, bacterial meningitis, cancers and cot death. It has been linked to around 165,000 new cases of disease among children in the UK each year. If you are a smoker, smoking outside can help reduce your child’s exposure.

Where there are multiple-living dwellings in the same block, social landlords have a duty of care to all their tenants. Only a third of people from deprived backgrounds smoke; so the majority are not being given a choice to live in smoke free homes, and the proposals bring the social housing field more into line with agreements private landlords are able to make. This move would also be in line with workplace Legilsation, where workers must smoke outside of their building.

In the United States, from August 2018, public housing agencies will be required to adopt smoke-free policy in their tenancy agreements. The majority of adults in the UK do not smoke and many tenants would positively welcome a smoke free home environment. There are a range of smoke free homes initiatives, mainly educational and voluntary, across the UK. Housing associations are currently considering the evidence base for introducing voluntary agreements with tenants, who would agree not to smoke in their home in order to protect children both in their own and neighbouring homes – and from internal communal areas. FPH is supportive of and encourages housing associations or local authorities that would like to pilot such schemes to undertake this research.


The Faculty of Public Health and others have been calling for a new Tobacco Control Plan for over a year and any further move on smoke free homes needs to be set alongside services to help people quit and further education about passive smoking risks.

FPH is deeply concerned that recent and ongoing cuts to local authority ring-fenced public health funding are causing vital smoking cessation services to close. We call for the reversal of these funding cuts, which are a false economy and may risk increased smoking prevalence. The smoke-free homes moves are proposed principally as a further protection for children’s health and wellbeing. 








Written: 09/05/2017 , last modified: 09/05/2017


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