IRELAND'S two biggest universities are considering plans to become completely smoke-free – in line with a growing international trend.
Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and University College Dublin (UCD) are both weighing up a ban on lighting up anywhere on their extensive grounds.
Between them, the two universities have around 50,000 students and staff, many of whom enjoy relaxing away from the lecture hall – but not too far away – with a cigarette.
The matter has already come up for discussion at the TCD board, and the college is conducting an in-depth study to assess the acceptability and feasibility of such a move.
Meanwhile, at Belfield, the UCD health promotion committee has suggested that smoking should be banned on the 320-acre campus from October next year.
UCD president Dr Hugh Brady is a strong supporter of the ban, and the UCD Students Union is holding a referendum on the issue this week.
The move comes after several areas of the campus were designated smoke-free last year, making it more inconvenient to indulge in the habit. One of the smoke-free zones is outside the Arts Cafe, which had been a popular lighting-up spot.
However, the change means that customers no longer have to pass through a fog of smoke on the way in or out.
A No vote by students would not halt the health committee's plans, but it would allow the union to campaign against the proposal.
At TCD, the authorities have already identified potential problems with ensuring that the air within the perimeter of the city-centre campus is smoke-free.
Forcing smokers out of the college grounds could lead to larger numbers of people congregating at entrances and exits, board members suggested at a recent meeting.
Trinity's main entrance opens on to College Green, a very busy pedestrian thoroughfare, while the iconic TCD gates and railings are already a popular meeting point.
Smokers in huddles could cause obstacles for pedestrians and similar problems could arise elsewhere.
Some members of the board also cautioned that monitoring such a ban on college grounds could be difficult.
Trinity has already conducted a survey among staff and students to see how well the idea would go down, and opinions are divided.
Staff members were more likely than students to favour the ban, while there is also a definite link between age and the level of support: the older anyone who responded to the survey was, the more they liked the idea.
TCD registrar Prof Shane Allwright told board members that if the ban was adopted it would help to denormalise smoking in society, discouraging the adoption of smoking and help smokers to quit.
She also said that any move to make the campus smoke-free could include a ban on the selling of cigarettes from all college and student union outlets.
In the United States it is estimated that more than 1,000 colleges and universities operate a no-smoking policy, although in some cases small spots in the grounds are set aside for smokers.