Like a wave of schools across the country, St. Catherine University and Macalester College studied banning smoking on campus, indoors and out.

But the St. Paul neighbors settled on different answers.

St. Kate's will start a campus-wide tobacco ban Sept. 1.

"The majority of the St. Kate's community felt it was something we should be doing," said Dr. Amy Kelly, director of the university's Health and Wellness Center.

At Macalester College, support was less clear.

The school looked at a ban after finding a 9 percent increase in "infrequent" or "social" smokers over five years.

But a survey showed that while Macalester students, faculty and staff agreed or strongly agreed that exposure to secondhand smoke is a health issue (81.3 percent) and an environmental health issue (61.6 percent), they were evenly split on what the college should do about it -- if anything.

"I was surprised at the vehemence of people wanting to make sure of everyone's rights," said Laurie Hamre, vice president for student affairs. "They often said that the college shouldn't be able to tell people what they can and can't do. That's an interesting challenge."

A task force did recommend a total ban -- but one that would begin in 2013.

To give the college time to adjust, "they looked at how long it takes us to move a group of students through," Hamre said.

The task force also endorsed banning smoking within 25 feet of building entrances. That rule -- common on other campuses -- will start this fall. After trying that, posters and cessation contests, Macalester's administrators will weigh a 2013 ban.

St. Kate's, too, will carefully gauge success.

Kelly remembers that when visiting her mother, a nurse, she'd see doctors and nurses smoking next to the clinic.

"Can you imagine?" she said. "I think we will be successful when it's that automatic, when people expect that, of course, you can't smoke on a university campus."

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168