February, 2017

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Statement on HB370

UTAH VAPE BUSINESSES – UTAH SMOKE FREE ASSOCIATION NEEDS YOUR HELP

 

We are writing to provide an update in regard to House Bill 370 .

On Thursday, the UTSFA opposed House Bill 370 because it’s passage would be extremely detrimental to vapor businesses and consumers in Utah.  The bill would create an onerous licensure requirement which would require retail vapor shops to attain a license from their local department of public health for all vape shops that opened after May 8, 2012.  Further, the bill requires retailers to provide independent verification that their retail locations are zoned properly which may cause dozens of small businesses to close, causing the layoff of hundreds of employees. All because of incompetence at state-run offices.

 

As importantly, the bill also adds vapor products to the definition of “smoking” under the Utah Clean Indoor Air Act. This policy decision would be a serious step backwards in the continuing fight against combustible tobacco use and would treat two significantly different products the same.

 

Members of UTSFA testified against HB370 and our lobbying team worked members of the committee.  Unfortunately, there was conflicting testimony on whether or not the vapor industry opposes House Bill 370.  Specifically, certain vapor leaders (not affiliated with UTSFA) testified that “vaping should be defined as smoking in Utah.”  Shortly after this testimony, House Bill 370 passed out of the House Health and Human Services Committee. This left members of the committee and the wider legislature confused forcing the cancellation of our Call to Action for another bill which place it at risk as well.

 

So, today UTSFA must turn its attention to and redouble our efforts in defeating the bill on the House floor by reinforcing the industry’s position on this bill, attempting to repair the damage done to the industry and try to once again elevate the reputation of the industry amongst our elected leaders at the capitol.  The Utah Smoke-Free Association remains opposed to House Bill 370 and we will continue to work tirelessly to defeat the bill.

 

Bottom line, the fight just got harder and we need your support to continue to fight anti-vaping bills. The Utah Smoke-Free Association provides a number of services to its members including lobbying services, legislative updates, and calls to action to ensure your voice is heard.  UTSFA is an independent vapor association and we have built a strong pro-vapor message in one of the most complex statehouses in the country for the past 6 years.

 

Last year, we made an outstanding decision to affiliate our association and each of our members with the Vapor Technology Association.  VTA has been an enormous resource to us, providing federal lobbying services, communications assistance, and coordinating our lobbying efforts with multiple state associations so that our industry has a consistent message.  VTA also has worked with us on state strategy, reviewing bills, drafting and/or reviewing testimony, and consulting with us on organizational issues.  At the same time, VTA has integrated Utah businesses in the federal fight for Cole-Bishop and changing the predicate date.

 

We are working hard to defend the vapor industry in Utah, but we need your help as our fight for the vapor industry in Utah just got tougher. To join the Utah Smoke-Free Association please visit: http://utsmokefree.org/directory/professional/. You may fill out the link at the bottom of the page.

 

 

Please support the vapor industry and join or donate to the UTSFA today!

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Feb 20 Legislative Update

Just a quick update for everyone on the 2017 session due to a few new bills that have been published since our last update.

Since our update last Friday, we have had 2 new bills introduced which directly or indirectly affect the vapor industry. We are not yet prepared to issue calls to actions but ask that you please remain ready to act on short notice. We are down to less than 3 weeks until the end of the session so things will happen very quickly and with little notice.

HB333 – Utah Indoor Clean Air Act Amendments. Since 2012, the speciality retailers in Utah have been allowed to vape indoors for sampling and demonstration purposes only. The bill that passed back then set a 5-year sunset period which ends July 1 of this year. This bill simply removes this July 1 expiration and makes no other changes to the law. This has been assigned to the House Health & Human Services committee with no hearing date set.

HB325 – Tobacco Sales Enforcement Amendments. This bill is “generally” supported by the UTSFA and our membership as it strengthens the penalties at the retail point of sale for any business that sells tobacco and vapor products when they are caught selling to minors. The vast majority of our retail members check ID’s very seriously and many have a long track record of perfect compliance. While this is a stronger penalty, the vast majority of our members fully support this approach. This has been assigned to the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee but has not been added to an agenda yet.

New! HB370 – Amendments to Tobacco Regulations. This bill requires new burdensome licensing requirements, modifies zoning, and appears to add vaping into the definition of smoking. We are carefully reviewing the full intent and impact of this bill with our lobbyists and industry partners and also working to gain an audience with the sponsor to better understand his intent with the bill. This one has not yet been assigned to a committee.

New! HB406 – Tobacco Age Restriction Amendments. This is the 4th attempt to elevate the use & possession age for tobacco and vapor products. If enacted into law, this would prohibit legal adults age 18, 19, or 20 from purchasing or possessing tobacco products, vapor products or related paraphernalia. It would ban the sale of such items to those under 21 and prohibit those under 21 from being present at specialty establishments where such items are sold or used—unless accompanied by a parent—unless you’re “an active duty member of the United States Armed Forces.”

Enforcement of this follows a phased approach:

  • Beginning on July 1, 2018, the minimum age for obtaining, possessing, or using tobacco products is 20 years of age; and
  • Beginning on January 1, 2019, the minimum age for obtaining, possessing, or
    using tobacco products is 21 years of age.

The UTSFA holds the position that instead of criminalizing adult behavior, we should be focused on increased education and awareness about the dangers of these habits. We believe that we should help teens not start in the first place by understanding what causes the choice to smoke and help prevent it through education instead of law.

 

We maintain our vigilance in monitoring for the rumored tax bill and any other regulatory bill that will affect the industry. As the situations warrant, community Calls to Action will be issued via the UTSFA, CASAA, VTA and any other resource necessary to protect YOUR rights.

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Utah Legislature Week 3 Update

Week 3 is now behind us and we have just over 27 calendar days (including weekends where nothing happens) in this session. There have been a total of 6 bills filed either directly or indirectly affecting the Utah vapor industry. The deadline for filing new bills has now passed and we do not anticipate any additional bills however we are always watching for amendments to unrelated bills that may impact the industry.

Bill Number Title Sponsor
Not Numbered Amendments to Tobacco Regulations Last, B.
Not numbered Electronic Cigarette Regulation Weiler, T.
Not numbered Electronic Cigarette Tax Amendments Ray, P.
Not numbered Tobacco Age Restriction Amendments Eliason, S
HB0325 Tobacco Sales Enforcement Amendments  Spendlove, R.
 HB0333  Utah Indoor Clean Air Act Amendments  Roberts, M.

At this time, both HB325 and HB333 are fully supported by the Utah Smoke Free Association but we will keep a close eye on them as they progress to make sure they don’t turn south. Neither bill has been assigned to a committee yet and we will make sure to let you know when they do so appropriate actions can be taken. We do anticipate attempts to amend one or both so will be watching for this as well.

The remaining 4 bills have yet to be numbered which is not uncommon due to the around 1200 bills being proposed in this record breaking legislative session. We anticipate the drafting attorneys to have them released next week and would expect at least a few committee hearings late in the week.

Thanks to our recent partnership with the Vapor Technology Association, all bills presented will be reviewed by their legislative experts along with other industry experts to try and avoid any unintended consequences of bills that will negatively affect the industry and our consumers.

Please be watchful for last minute alerts coming out as we’re running out of time on our legislative session and things will start moving very fast.

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