Professor John Middleton, president of the Faculty of Public Health, said adults smoking in the home damaged the development of children’s lungs and put babies at risk of cot death.
Under the proposals, tenants would be required to sign an agreement not to smoke in new local authority or housing association homes.
“Housing associations and councils are looking at smoke-free housing buildings. Where children are involved I think there is a real case for it,” Middleton told The Sunday Times.
“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.”
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Ash, said the anti-smoking charity had a call last week from a woman whose granddaughter had cystic fibrosis and had never been able to visit because neighbours’ smoke from communal areas drifted into the grandmother’s home.
Arnott said people were often “frustrated by councils’ and social landlords’ failure to take action”.
Simon Clark, director of the pro-smoking campaign group Forest, said that a ban “would penalise unfairly those who can’t afford to buy their own homes”.
Smoking in cars carrying children has been illegal since 2015 and homes are seen as the next front in the fight against second-hand smoke.
In the United States, the Obama administration passed a federal law which banned smoking in all public housing – the equivalent to UK social housing – in November last year.
The legislation, which will come into effect in August 2018, will affect more than million homes. In New York alone, which has the largest public housing agency in the country, 400,000 people will be bound by non-smoking agreements.