The Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011
Regulation 15 - Health of children placed with foster parents

Fostering Services: National Minimum Standards
STANDARD 6 - Promoting good health and wellbeing

Statutory Guidance on Adoption 2013: Section 4.16 - Smoking


NHS Choices – Stop Smoking


This chapter was updated in September 2022.

1. Introduction

The Government smoking ban, set out in the Health Act 2006, came into effect in England on 1 July 2007, and made it illegal to smoke in any public place, with exemptions for certain residences, including prisons, care homes and psychiatric units.

The agency wants all children to live in an environment that promotes their health and wellbeing. Foster carers play a key role in protecting and promoting children's health.

Although foster carer's / adopters homes are not regarded as a workplace it is essential that the rights of carers / adopters to smoke are balanced against the rights of looked after children to be healthy.

The health risks from smoking and passive smoking are well known, with smoking being the single greatest cause of preventable illness and premature death in the United Kingdom.

Most children will have experimented with tobacco by the age of 16 and this is a key age at which behaviour can be shaped and influenced. Research does suggest that smoke free environments, promoting non-smoking as the cultural norm and providing children with information about the dangers of smoking does help to prevent young people from starting to smoke. Providing positive non-smoking role models and support to stop smoking can help them to quit.

It is important, therefore, that the fostering / adoption agency establish a smoke-free policy which includes foster carers / prospective adopters and the children they look after.

2. Foster Carers / Prospective Adopters

It is important that foster carers / prospective adopters understand and are made aware of the detrimental effect of smoking and passive smoking on their health and that of other people in their household.

During the recruitment, assessment and preparation process, discussions will take place with applicants regarding our expectations and requirements.

The fostering agency / adoption agency will make every effort to support and encourage carers who wish to give up smoking.

The agency is clear that any carer / prospective adopter who smokes or lives in a household where people smoke cannot be approved to take a child under the age of five in addition any child with known middle ear or respiratory tract infections, or who is prone to asthma and bronchitis, may not be placed in a smoking household, although exceptions may be made where it is in the child's best interests.

Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) recognises the risk to the health of placing children in smoking households. The risk is greatly increased for children under 5, children with a disability, or those already registered with established medical conditions. While there is no blanket ban when considering applications for fostering or adoption, HCC would not routinely assess and approve foster carers or adopters who smoke for the under 5s.

It is recognised that there may be exceptional circumstances where a child is already placed with kinship carers and has established a close relationship where this policy needs to be balanced against the need of the child to remain in the placement. In these circumstances, all carers will be strongly encouraged to cease smoking and HCC will offer support and advice to assist in this.

The Supervising Social Worker / Adoption Support Worker will agree a smoke free plan with the carers to include the following:

  • Carers / prospective adopters and other members of the household, including visitors, will not smoke in the company of children of any age, in the home or in the car and will promote non-smoking as the norm;
  • Smoking will take place outside the home;
  • Tobacco products, matches or lighters will not be left lying around or accessible to children. 

3. Children

It is illegal for retailers to sell any tobacco products to anyone below the age of 18. In the same way foster carers will not be permitted to provide children with tobacco products.

Some children may start smoking or be smokers at the point of becoming looked after. You should support and encourage them to reduce or stop smoking. Support is available from the Looked After Children's Nurse or the young person's GP. This should be discussed with the child/young person's social worker and addressed as part of the young person's Health Plan.

In situations where a child already smokes it is reasonable to expect the foster carer to have an agreed place to store any smoking products whilst the child is in the foster home and for the child to hand them over to the carer. This will be explained to the child and their social worker and recorded in the Placement Plan. The child will be expected to comply with the smoke-free plan for the foster home.

4. Electronic Cigarettes (also called e-cigarettes and vaporisers)

The fostering agency / adoption agency views electronic smoking the same as conventional smoking.

Electronic cigarettes may 're-normalise' smoking, thereby undermining the smoking bans which have helped to de-glamorise cigarettes.

The welfare of children is the agency's primary concern and the long term impact of e-cigarettes is unknown. The fostering agency / adoption agency will continue to monitor any research regarding this subject and will review information as appropriate.