ANTI-tobacco campaigners are pushing for new measures which could prevent smokers from lighting up at home.

ASH Scotland wants to hold talks with social housing providers to explore ways of introducing no smoking rules for some tenants.

It also wants to look at how legislation surrounding smoking in residential care homes could be tightened up to protect staff from breathing in residents’ second hand smoke.

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The controversial move has been boosted by a call from Aberdeen University academic Dr Sean Semple for a national debate around smoking at home.

He said: “We need to have a debate on why we currently think it acceptable to expose non-smokers, including children, to secondhand tobacco smoke within indoor spaces. That debate needs to include smoking in the home.”

However smokers’ group Forest branded any attempt to stop people from smoking in a home setting as “obnoxious”, adding that it would constitute a gross invasion of privacy and be almost impossible to enforce.

“Targeting social housing is particularly obnoxious because it penalises unfairly those who can't afford to buy their own home,” said Forest director Simon Clark. “Prohibiting smoking at home would be almost impossible to enforce but it could create a snooper's charter encouraging people to snitch on neighbours they don't like.

“What happens if someone is caught and prosecuted? The consequences, including possible eviction, are out of all proportion to the alleged offence.”

The move to target social housing comes follows a recent review of the Scottish government’s approach to reducing smoking which showed it continues to be a bigger problem in more deprived areas, where 35 per cent of people smoke compared to 10 per cent in the country’s most affluent areas.

Sheila Duffy, chief executive of Ash Scotland, said social housing tenants should have the choice of smoking or non-smoking accommodation.

“We know second hand smoke is a toxic substance and many people are experiencing smoke drift into where they are living,” she said. “We would like to see a choice of smoke-free social housing.”

The move could lead to entire buildings, stairwells and communal garden areas becoming smoke-free zones, with tenants at risk of breaching agreements if they allow smokers to light up.

Ash Scotland is seeking a meeting with the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations to discuss the proposals.

Ms Duffy added: “We would like people to have the choice to live in smoke free accommodation. At the moment there’s not an option.”

Despite existing laws which ban smoking in public places and vehicles occupied by children, campaigners say hundreds of thousands of Scots are still at risk from exposure to secondhand smoke at home.

The risk to children is greatest as they have smaller airways, breathe faster and their immune systems are still developing. Secondhand smoke is known to increase the risk of asthma, as well as ear and chest infections.

Dr Semple, who is Director of the Scottish Centre for Indoor Air and a Senior Lecturer in the Respiratory Group at Aberdeen University, said while soft measures including television campaigns could help make smoking at home socially unacceptable, a law or restrictions similar to those that prohibit smoking in cars when children are on board, could be considered.

“As a society, we still consider that legislation to protect children in their own home from this known hazard, this known carcinogen, would be a step too far and would infringe smokers’ rights.

“We need to look at ways to help smokers quit or, if that isn’t possible, to make sure they only smoke outside.”

“Why is it that in Scotland in 2017, a worker in a bar has had legal protection from being exposed to secondhand smoke for over a decade but a child in their own home has no equivalent protection from the same substance — and often at higher concentrations than we measured in bars in 2006?”

According to NHS Scotland, smoking is the single most preventable cause of ill health and premature death in the country. There are more than 13,000 deaths - a quarter of all deaths - and 56,000 hospital admissions related to smoking every year, according to the body.

Scotland is aiming to have a “smoke-free” generation by 2034.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have no plans to ban smoking in people’s homes. We'll continue to explore other ways to support our ambition of creating a tobacco-free generation by 2034.

“Our target to halve the proportion of children exposed in the home to six per cent by 2020 was met five years early. The smoking in cars ban builds on this progress, alongside our measures on tobacco advertising, packaging and displays, and providing NHS Scotland services to help more people to quit smoking.”

Mr Clark added: “The puritanical health lobby needs to get a grip and realise there are far worse things in the world than smoking.

“Tobacco is a legal product and adults must to be allowed to smoke somewhere without constant harassment and discrimination.”