Your board of directors and officers met last week for our regularly scheduled board meeting and wanted to share a few important updates with everyone.
First off, we officially welcomed Tad Jensen as President and Eddie Mock as the Social Media and Promotions manager into our ranks. They are excited to represent everyone and are bringing some awesome ideas of which will be announced in the next few weeks. We met with our lobbyists to understand the current climate at the capital and around the state. He was provided with education from the board and has committed to helping us get in front of many different forums to try and protect every business owner in the state. More on this in a minute…
For a bit of history, the Utah Smoke Free Association (formally the Utah Vapers) was founded out of passion for the industry by a consumer with a goal to bring the vaping community together, consumers and vendors alike. It was formed as an outlet to bring the community together and have fun but also as a method to communicate with everyone when important battles needed to be fought. At the time of the formation, the industry was just coming under fire and faced a very real threat of extinction before it had a chance to live. With limited resources, great personal sacrifices and only a few thousand dollars annually, we were able to fight off bad legislation for 3 out of 4 years. In November of 2014, the organization was formalized as a federally registered 501(c)4 trade association and we hired lobbyists to take our industry to a new level and help protect us in ways we can’t individually fight as an industry.
Today, the organization is funded exclusively through professional and consumer membership dues and any donations we happen to receive. Approximately 80% of our funding received goes to paying our lobbyists with the remaining 20% paying for administrative and organizational expenses (this IS a business with expenses). We do have a goal to reduce the administrative funding to 10% but the first year is generally more expensive due to set-up costs. Nobody on the board has ever nor will ever receive a salary and this is part of our legal filings with the IRS. Yes there is a cost for joining the trade association however lobbyists, websites, printing, etc are not free.
With that said, we pay our lobbyists (we have 2) the total sum of $60,000/year and make this payment on a quarterly basis. Considering the going rate of a professional lobbyist, this is a steal considering that we get 2 for the price of 1. We currently have paid them through July 1st which means they have been paid a total sum of $30,000 to date. We need to pay them another $30,000 to keep them on staff through the end of the year. We currently have a balance in our account of $9363 and change which means we are $5700 short in retaining them for the 3rd quarter of the year and $20,637 for the full year; which does not include any funds for operational costs. Without our lobbying team, the very livelihood of the industry in Utah is at tremendous risk. During the next legislative session, we will be fighting taxation, regulations and any number of other attempts to control our industry in ways that cannot be effectively fought during public hearings. We need to fight to protect the rights of each business owner due to city/county level errors in licensing that are already costing our industry hundreds of thousands of dollars due to public policy incompetence. This is where the lobbyists come in. They have the political relationships at the capitol, relationships with the health departments, relationships with cities & counties and a level of expertise in politics none of us ever will. Simply put, if we cannot fund them, we as an industry will not survive.
As it stands today, our membership consists of 19 retail locations, 1 dedicated e-liquid manufacturing facility, 2 distributors and 3 affiliate members for a total of 25 members (see the Membership Directory for a full list of all members). Statewide, we estimate there are around 45 retail shops and approximately 10 dedicated manufacturers. In order to retain our lobbyists for the Utah industry to survive, we need every vapor industry business owner, every consumer and all others who support the goals we are trying to achieve to dig deep and get involved. Associations such as the Utah Smoke Free Association bridges the gap between the local, state and federal levels. Membership is open to vaping industry businesses located, or with a business interest, in the Utah market. Participation in organizations like this are key for your survival in this industry. Details of the costs of joining can be found on our membership & benefits document.
We have worked hard for 4 years to fight the political rhetoric spewed forth by our media, legislators, health departments and public. We have proven time and time again that we are part of the solution, not part of the problem. Your board and officers all strongly feel that if we cannot regulate ourselves, it will be done for us whether we like it or not. So this is your chance to prove it to not only your customers, but to the Utah public. Let’s fight this rhetoric together as a community instead of fighting internally and against one another.
If you know of any vapor industry or corporate sponsor that would like join and show their support, they can demonstrate this support by joining or donating to the association. Simply send them to our website and click the “Join Us” link on the Professional Membership page to fill out the membership form. After submitting, a member of the board will be in touch as soon as possible. If you don’t want to join but do want to contribute to the fight, you can donate via PayPal on our donation page.
Lastly, some have called into question our funding and as per our IRS requirements, our annual tax filings are always available upon official request. To date, we have not received any requests however for transparency, we are publishing it here for anyone to view that is interested. Keep in mind, the UTSFA was officially formed in November 2014 therefore 2014 is the only filing available. It is posted below so feel free to review at your leisure and if you have any questions, you may use the Contact link to send an email to the Board of Directors.
As always, we are here to protect the business owners rights to operate and the consumers right to vape so vape on and vape strong my friends and family!by