UTSFA in Washington DC
Last week, 9 representatives from the Utah Smoke Free Association Board and our membership attended the first Vapor Technology Association Conference in Washington D.C. It was an amazing experience and I would encourage everyone to take part in it if the opportunity comes around again. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the VTA, they have been around about 8 months and have been involved in the industry for a few years now but officially became an association in fall of 2015. Tony Abboud, President of the Vapor Technology Association is a highly accomplished Government Relations Specialist, Lawyer and Lobbyist and it showed all week.
Tony Abboud kicked off the conference with Stacy Ehrlich following Tony’s introduction. Stacy is a partner at Kleinfeld, Kaplan and Becker LLP. She has also worked closely with the FDA in the regulation of tobacco products since early in the legislative process of the Family Smoking Control Act. Azim Chowdhury from Keller and Heckman followed Stacy with his take on the FDA regulations and what it will take for Retailers and Manufactures to comply with each individual deadline in the Deeming Rule. Next up on the Speaker list on Tuesday was Seth Mailhot, a Partner at Michael Best & Friedrich LLP. Mr. Mailhot worked for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from 1994 to 2006 in positions ranging from researcher, engineer, investigator and compliance officer. Following Seth Mailhot, a Lawyer named Marc J. Scheineson spoke in further detail about the Deeming Rule and his experiences with the FDA.
The Deeming Rule is going to affect this industry in a way that is nerve-racking to even anticipate but its important to recognize a few things. The amount of paperwork, studies and costs involved in PMTA’s are far from achievable for much of the industry. That being said, there are still things we can do. Supporting HR2058 and the Cole-Bishop Amendment is key. Both bills are now bi-partisan and making some great traction.
Tuesday evening we attended a surprise evening event across from the Capitol for a private screening of A Billion Lives presented by Aaron Biebert himself. Several staff members of various Senators across the nation attended and from what we heard, they received the information well.
On Wednesday June 8th, 2016 we began the day with a speech from Ashley Davis of West Front Strategies. Ashley is part of the lobbying team for the VTA and orchestrated the meetings on Capitol Hill with each of our State Senators and their staff. We individually met with the staff of Senators Mike Lee, Orrin Hatch, and Rob Bishop. In addition to asking for each of their support on the Cole-Bishop Amendment, we took the opportunity to educate our Senators about the products we use and the technology that has the opportunity to save 480,000 lives a year. Most were very receptive, interested in what we had to say and seemed like they wanted to help. We finished the day with a meeting with Mia Love and her staff. Her staff was the most engaged by far, took down several pages of notes and couldn’t hear enough from us. Once Senator Love came out of her office, it was nothing short of amazing. She offered her support of the Cole-Bishop Amendment and also made clear that once the Amendment in the Agricultural Bill is actually submitted as it’s own bill, she will support that as well! Senator Love is anti regulatory laws and committed to do whatever she can to help us out to save the industry and the jobs our industry provides.
All in all, it was a very successful trip and we were able to educate individuals that know virtually nothing about our industry. If you haven’t sent your story to your Senators and Representatives, I would encourage you to do so as soon as possible. The standard assumption is that your voice may not be heard and your time wasted. I can promise you after the last few weeks, more State officials are becoming very interested in this matter and more then willing to listen. We have made some great progress as of late but the fight is far from over. If you have any further questions about what was discussed at the Conference, please contact Grant Hiller, Eddie Mock or Darrel Schildknecht for more info. Thanks for everything each of you are doing to keep this industry alive. Have a great day and we look forward to seeing you soon.
~Grant Hiller, Industry Directorby