In the spring of 2006, New Hampshire Governor John Lynch signed a piece of legislation that was originally proposed by Dover Youth to Youth students – with help from the Dover Fire Department and the NH Fire Chief’s Association.
Self-extinguishing cigarettes are designed to put themselves out by adding thin rings of paper in the cigarette that act as “speed bumps” preventing the cigarettes from continuing to burn unless the smoker inhales. The tobacco in cigarettes is also packed differently during the manufacturing process. The initiative was a public safety effort since the new cigarettes are designed to go out if they are put down and not used – making them less likely to start a fire if disposed of carelessly or dropped on a sofa cushion.
In 2004 Dover Youth to Youth approached Dover Fire Chief Perry Plummer about supporting self-extinguishing cigarettes. Chief Plummer brought this information to the New Hampshire Fire Chiefs Association. The Fire Chiefs Association then hired a lobbyist to help them draft a bill. The legislation (HB 645-FN) was proposed in the NH House in 2004.
The bill passed through the Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee and was then put to study in the summer of 2005. In the fall of 2005 the legislation passed through the House Ways and Means committee. Youth to Youth students spoke at each of the house committee hearings on the bill.
Students went beyond speaking before the state legislature to support the bill. Students wrote letters to several state representatives, and had personal conversations with some of them. They also worked to raise public awareness around the issue and gain constituent support for the legislation. For example, in the summer of 2005 at a large community event attended by over 3,000 citizens, Dover Night Out, students created and distributed palm cards making the public aware of the issue.
The palm card had facts and information about HB 645-Fthe proposed law and encouraged community members to contact their representatives. Youth to Youth members also helped write and record a radio public service announcement that made the public aware of the dangers of cigarette caused fires and the need for the legislation.
In September of 2005 students from Y2Y took the lead in planning and moderating a press conference at the South Side Fire Station in Dover where they conducted their own non-scientific experiment with the self-extinguishing cigarettes. The students wanted to answer skeptics that were questioning if whether the cigarettes would extinguish and claiming that they tasted different to the public. They placed the self-extinguishing cigarettes and regular cigarettes in an ashtray and lit both cigarettes to watch them burn. After a few minutes it was clear that the regular cigarette was burning at a considerably faster speed than the self-extinguishing cigarette and was creating much more smoke. When the regular cigarette was burnt almost to the filter the self-extinguishing was almost out. At the end of the experiment it was clear to anyone at the event that self-extinguishing cigarette really did go out when it was left unattended.
At the press conference students also conducted a “Taste Test Challenge” where smokers were invited to try fire-safe cigarettes from NY and compare them to the cigarettes they normally smoke. All of the smokers that tried the fire-safe cigarettes stated that they did not taste any different then what they normally smoke, some even stated that they would prefer the fire-safe cigarettes because they know that they would not be putting their family at risk of dying in a fire started by their cigarettes. The press conference resulted in a front page article in the newspaper and state legislators and several community members who came being better informed on the issue.
In 2006 the NH House Ways and Means Committee finally voted to approve and pass the bill. The full House then voted overwhelmingly to pass the bill 272 to 72. The House voted on the bill in January and passed the legislation to the Senate. On March 8th the Senate voted to pass the legislation. In May of 2006, the governor signed the bill into law. The law was written to be effective in October of 2007. Youth to Youth student Emily Martuscello, who was the student leader on this project, attended the signing of the legislation by the Governor.
For more information and to view a copy of the law visit the NH Division of Fire Safety.