A couple has been stopped from adopting a child after the would-be father was seen smoking an e-cigarette.
The decision by social workers at Staffordshire County Council came after the pair had passed a long series of tests to qualify as parents.
They were told they could not adopt if either of them had used an e-cigarette in the past 12 months – despite experts saying that ‘vaping’ poses little or no threat to children in the home.
The couple told The Mail on Sunday: “When there are so many children desperate for a family and a stable home, to put up such trivial barriers is ridiculous.”
According to its investigation at least 13 councils in England ban e-cigarette users from fostering or adopting young children.
‘Abigail’ and ‘Brian’, who do not want to give their real names, approached the council in December 2013 after several failed IVF attempts costing over £20,000.
By last September, having undergone medicals and interviews, and having proved they were of sound character and financially capable of raising a child, the pair thought they were on track to adopt. But when a social worker saw Brian using an e-cigarette, everything changed.
Brian, 45, said: ‘By then I’d stopped smoking completely and hadn’t had a real cigarette in months. I was using e-cigarettes as a cessation aid, to ease the nicotine cravings.’
The social worker warned them the council did not allow smokers to adopt young children, although she was unclear about its position with e-cigarette users.
She later told them that the council would not place a child with anyone who had used e-cigarettes in the previous 12 months either.
Public Health England recently stated: ‘The health risks of passive exposure to electronic cigarette vapour are… likely to be extremely low.’
Many councils cite guidance from the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF), which recommends ‘users of e-cigarettes be considered smokers’ until concerns about the devices are cleared up.
However, other councils cite alternative guidance from the Fostering Network, which says that people ‘should not be prevented from fostering or applying because of e-cigarettes use’.
Professor Robert West, director of tobacco studies at University College London, said the policy was ‘badly thought out’ and would cause ‘significant harm’.
“There are so many misconceptions about e-cigarettes that policy makers and the public are getting very confused,” he added.
At least 13 other councils across England state they will not place under-fives with e-cigarette users. They include Bury, Kirklees, North Tyneside, Durham, Warrington, West Sussex, Poole, Cornwall, Camden, Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Walsall and Dudley councils.