FOSTER carers who smoke have been banned from looking after children under five or disabled youngsters in Sheffield.
The decision has been made following consultation between council officials and medical advisors – and other South Yorkshire councils are to follow suit.
Authorities across the country are concerned about the potential health impact of passive smoking on children.
There are also fears about future legal action, in case children who develop respiratory diseases as adults later sue a council for placing them in a smoky environment.
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Paul Makin, Sheffield Council's acting executive director of children and young people's services, said: "Our first priority is to keep children safe.
"The most recent and authoritative advice from British Association for Adoption and Fostering is that children under the age of five and disabled children shouldn't be placed with foster carers who smoke.
"This has been confirmed by our medical advisors.
"Therefore, we are not considering foster carer applications for this age group from smokers or those who have given up smoking within the last year."
Under proposed new rules being considered by Rotherham Council children under five would not be placed with families who smoke.
Older children would be offered a choice of whether they want to be looked after by a smoking or non-smoking carer.
And Barnsley Council is considering similar proposals.
A report to Rotherham Council states: "Discussions with foster carers of children who continue to smoke have indicated a very responsible approach to the issue – they smoke outside the house and attempt at all times not to smoke in front of the children, so avoiding negative role models.
"We could, by placing children in environments where they may be subject to adverse long-term effects on their health as a result of smoking, be making ourselves liable to legal challenge if the health of former looked-after children and young people becomes compromised as a result of placements when in care."
Carers are to be warned they should never buy cigarettes, even for older children, and cigarettes should never be used as a reward for good behaviour.
Young people and children in council care who smoke would be offered advice to kick the habit.
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