By Anthony Pearce

Council tenants could be banned from smoking in their own homes under radical new plans to combat the effects secondhand smoke.

New tenants would be required to sign an agreement promising not to smoke in housing association or local authority properties, a health chief has said.

Professor John Middleton, president of the Faculty of Public Health, told the Sunday Times that smoking indoors can seriously affect children’s health.

“Housing associations and councils are looking at smoke-free housing buildings. Where children are involved I think there is a real case for it,” he said.

“You wouldn’t evict a load of tenants for smoking. Where you have got new premises, you could have smoke-free agreements from the start.”

However, Simon Clark, director of the pro-smoking campaign group Forest, said the ban “would penalise unfairly those who can’t afford to buy their own homes”.

It is illegal to smoke in vehicles with someone under 18 present, under laws introduced last year.

According to the NHS, children are especially vulnerable to secondhand, or passive smoke, as they have less well-developed airways, lungs and immune systems.

Up to 5 million children across the UK are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke in the home.

Breathing secondhand smoke increases a child’s or an adult’s risk of lung cancer by 24 per cent and heart disease by 25 per cent.

According to the health body, it also results in 300,000 GP visits and 9,500 hospital admissions for children every year.

Last month, plans to ban smoking in pub beer gardens and restaurant terraces were drawn up by a London council.

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Labour-run Haringey Council suggested “extending smoke-free areas” in the area to protect public health.

The document said it would “support long term progress and achieving a tobacco-free generation by encouraging more people to quit, removing smoking as a social norm”.

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