Dover Youth to Youth students were concerned it was legal for minors to purchase tobacco rolling papers because one of the most common uses of these papers is to roll marijuana cigarettes or joints. To see if this was actually a problem in Dover, the students decided to test how easy it was for minors to purchase rolling papers.
To check how easily rolling papers could be obtained by purchasing them in stores, during February vacation (in 1999), students went into local markets to see if clerks would challenge the sale. Three students went to 16 different stores during two days of vendor checks. Students were able to make purchases at 5 stores. Two students were in high school and one of the students who was able to make a purchase was an 8th grader.
Following the sales, letters of thanks or caution were sent to all establishments checked. All stores were asked to refuse to sell these products to minors in the future. Each store that refused to sell rolling papers also received a Youth to Youth smoke free T-shirt. In conjunction with the letters to the stores, the students met with the press and released the results of their efforts. The names of the stores were not released.
In May 1999, eight members of Youth to Youth met with Vice President Al Gore when he was in Dover and had their pictures taken individually and as a group. The VP had heard about this student initiative.
In June 1999, a team of Youth to Youth members drafted a proposed City Ordinance making it illegal to sell rolling papers to minors and making it illegal for minors to possess them. The team solicited a member of the council to sponsor the ordinance. In July 1999, the Dover City Council unanimously voted to pass this ordinance.
After passage of the ordinance, the youth felt that it was still possible for kids to simply go to a neighboring town to buy the papers. Their solution was to find a state legislator willing to sponsor a proposed state law making it illegal to sell rolling papers to kids, and also illegal for kids to possess them.
State Representative William Knowles agreed to submit the student proposal. Dover Youth to Youth testified at public hearings on the proposal (House Bill 265) before both the NH Senate and House of Representatives. During the drive to Concord to testify before the Senate, members of Y2Y stopped at stores along Route 4 and purchased many samples of rolling papers, which were displayed during their testimony to demonstrate the ease of purchasing them. The bill passed easily and was signed by the Governor on July 5, 2001.
On January 1, 2002 the new state law went into effect, making it illegal for a minor to possess rolling papers or for a business to sell rolling papers to minors. Three days later, on January 4, the School Resource Officer at Dover High School issued the first summons for possession of rolling papers by a minor since the passage of the new state law. This student had been caught at the school with rolling papers in his possession.
Later in 2001, The Smoke Free NH Alliance recognized Dover Youth to Youth for our work to ban the sale of rolling papers to minors, making Dover Youth to Youth the first recipients of their Shoulders of Atlas Award.
The state law can be found here.