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UTSFA responds to cyber bullying

25 February 2016, 18:00
For immediate release

The Utah Smoke Free Association received reports through the media of cyber bullying and threats against our Utah youth in regards to vapor products and pending legislation on the industry. While we as an industry may not see eye to eye on public policy with Representative Ray, we do stand side by side with him that this type of behavior is completely unacceptable. If credible threats have been made, we will work as closely as possible with the appropriate authorities to assist in their investigations to hold those responsible to account so we can bring this situation to a close.

Aaron Frazier
Executive Director
Utah Smoke-Free Association

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HB333 Call to Action

This is an URGENT CALL TO ACTION on House Bill 333 introduced by Representative Paul Ray which threatens to crush every vapor industry business in Utah by applying an 86.5% tax on our industry. If enacted, the bill will protect the tobacco companies by making cigarettes far cheaper and more readily available. His bill expects to raise over $11 million in tax revenue, will force over 75 retail and liquid manufacturers to close down and file bankruptcy, placing over 850 Utah residents on the unemployment line.  This regressive tax will have the opposite intended effect by forcing the adult consumers back to smoking deadly tobacco cigarettes seriously affecting the lives of every family member through direct exposure to second-hand smoke.

Representative Ray claims that this punitive tax would discourage underage youth from using it, though he has not presented any evidence that the tax would achieve his goals; the fact he anticipates $11 million in revenue is proof this is about adult control more than youth. Further, it is improper to punish adults financially simply because some youth may be violating the law that already prohibits them from purchasing and possessing these items.

HB333 will:

  • Introduce a regressive 86% tax (based on wholesale cost) on all e-liquid, hardware and accessories in Utah (excluding batteries and chargers). 
  • Require Vapor Specialty stores to obtain licenses to sell cigarettes despite the fact they sell none.
  • Classify vapor devices and accessories as tobacco paraphernalia

HB333 has been assigned to the House Revenue & Taxation committee and we are asking everyone to email and call your representatives and ask them to oppose this regressive tax on the products that have helped over 25,000 Utahans and over 10 million US smokers successfully move away from toxic cigarettes. We do not have a date yet for the hearing but when that is known, a separate note will be posted in social media to alert you to the date and time.

  • First, we ask that you personally contact your Senator and Representative. Let them know that you are a voter in their district and ask them to oppose HB333. Libertas Utah has a tool to enter your street address and zip code and locate them: Legislative Tool
  • Secondly, we ask that you please contact all members of the House Revenue & Taxation committee both by phone and email to also ask them to “support you as a consumer or business owner by opposing HB333.”

Suggested talking points (just pick one or two but be prepared for questions just in case): 

  • Let them know that you do not condone the use of e-cigarette products by youth but imposing punitive taxes that will affect adult consumers is not an effective method
  • Nicotine is no more a tobacco product than milk is a beef product.
  • Let them know members of our own legislature have suggested that we should be incentivizing the use of the products rather than taxing or over regulating them.
  • Let them know that the UK government recently released the most comprehensive study to date and finds e-cigarette products to be over 95% safer than combustible tobacco and are promoted to their smoking residents resulting in the most dramatic decline of smoking in history.

Important: We can’t say this loud enough – Be courteous and respectful at all times. You should assume they know very little about vapor products and also that they generally they want good information so they can do the right thing for Utah citizens. So, educate them on how these products have changed your life and ask them to support your position politely, for best results. 

 

House Revenue & Taxation Standing Committee

Read the rest of this page »

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2016 Election Results

electionresults

The UTSFA would like to announce that the elections for the Board of Directors has concluded. We would like to thank everyone that threw their hands up and offered to put their talents to work for the wider organization and our community:

  • Paul Evans
  • Grant Hiller
  • Dick Ty
  • Brian Fisher
  • Matt Wilkins
  • Tamara Evans
  • Braxton Katis
  • Brad Parsons

Individuals like this are the reason that Utah has such a strong vaping community and we wish we could have a seat for everyone. We do hold elections each year so there will be more opportunities to get involved and encourage everyone to keep working hard to make this the best community in the country.

 

With that said, we would like to first thank our departing leaders for their contributions to the organization and more importantly, to the industry. Without their input, hard work and leadership, the UTSFA would not be what it is today. When everyone started with the organization, we were being formed from the proverbial ashes and their passion & talent helped to form this organization into what it is today and to surround it with a supportive vaping family:

  • Paul Evans – Retail Director
  • Brian Fisher – Consumer Compliance Director
  • Deanna Fisher – Secretary
  • Jacinda Ross – Treasurer

There are not enough good words about each of these people and I know that while they will no longer be serving as an active leader in the organization, I’m certain they will remain a leader in our community and will continue to do their part to help everyone in their own way.

 

Next, we are proud to introduce you to the newly elected leaders into the organization. Each of the nominees were voted on by our current industry members and sponsors of the organization and I can tell you it was a tight race. They will be inducted into their new positions at our next Board of Directors meeting and we would like to welcome each of them to our team.

  • Grant Hiller – Retail Director
  • Matt Wilkins – Consumer Compliance Director
  • Tamara Evans – Secretary/Treasurer

The current leaders will continue in their position through the end of January while they transition any duties or important information over to the incoming leaders. Please take a moment to welcome our new leaders and thank our exiting leaders for their service over the last year. We look forward to 2016 and the years ahead with our new and existing leadership team.

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E-Liquid & Nicotine Warning

For Immediate Release 

11 December 2015, 11:00am MST

Utah Smoke Free Association reminds parents of the dangers of nicotine containing e-liquid.  

 

This week, there was an unfortunate incident involving a 9-month old child and e-liquid used with vapor products. According to the media report <http://www.good4utah.com/news/local-news/as-e-cigs-become-widespread-so-do-their-hazards-baby-ingests-dads-nicotine-juice-in-north-ogden>, the father of the child left an open bottle of e-liquid containing nicotine at a location where the child could easily access it. The child then proceeded to orally consume an unreported amount of the liquid and became ill resulting in a trip to the emergency room. We are releived that the medical staff reports the child will make a full recovery and is not expected to incur any long term harm.

This is the first known incident in Utah such as this and we would like to remind everyone of the necessary safety protocols relating to e-liquid and vapor products. While it’s believed that the bottle used did employ child-resistant caps, the father did not have the cap on the bottle and the bottle was on the floor within the child’s access. It is important to remind every consumer of vapor products (e-cigarettes, vape pens, etc) that e-liquid which contains nicotine is potentially deadly if orally consumed; moreso for small children. E-liquid, like all other chemicals, must always be kept with the cap tightly secured and must always be kept out of the reach of children.

Children are naturally curious and will explore their surroundings. We have seen many instance over the years with children consuming laundry pods, medications, cosmetics, etc leading them to trips to the hospital to treat the exposures. We ask that every consumer of vapor products ensure the products stay well out of reach of children whether you have children in your home or where you may be in the home where small children are present.  There are several signs of nicotine poisoning including drooling, agitation, vomiting, rapid heart rate, and seizures. While the child did not exhibit any of these symptoms, it’s important to remember the safety. E-liquid and vapor products of all types should be treated no differently than you would treat standard household chemicals such as cleaners and bleach. All chemicals, medications and vapor products must be kept out of reach of children and we ask that anyone with small children in your homes to please follow this warning.  

We remind every retailer of vapor products to educate your customers on the dangers of the products where children are present in their homes. If an overdose or accidental exposure occurs, please seek immediate medical help or contact a poison control center by calling 1-(800) 222-1222.

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UTSFA Leadership Nominations

voteThe Utah Smoke Free Association is a consumer driven non-profit 501(c)4 trade organization comprised of a consumer governed Board of Directors. All positions are volunteer and serve a term of 12-24 months unless the position is resigned. All Board of Directors and Officer positions will be nominated by the public and voted on by the UTSFA General Members along with the existing Board of Directors. Per our official By-Laws, the Board of Directors must be comprised of 5 individuals; 3 consumers and 2 from the industry (owners or employees). Consumers on the board may not be affiliated in any way with the industry. Officers are not required as part of our By-Laws and do not have voting authority but add to the leadership and skills and help spread the work out amongst a larger group.

We are currently accepting nominations for 3 positions:

  • Consumer Director (no industry affiliation)
  • Industry Director (must be industry owner/employee)
  • Secretary/Treasurer (Officer – prefer no industry affiliation but will consider all)

Nominees must be passionate about the vaping industry and who have a passion for advocating to keep our industry legal and active in the Utah community. The leadership team meets regularly throughout the year to address legislative issues, work to improve the industry image through media and public relations, and work with the industry on compliance.

The time commitment is generally less than 8 hours per month; with legislative months being the most active and requiring additional time commitment. You must have great skills in building and maintaining relationships but no prior experience with the role is required; just a passion to serve the community which has helped so many people over the last 10 years. The Secretary/Treasurer position is a combined position and therefore is a bit more involved with our finances and generally keeping everyone organized so we do prefer some experience in the field but anyone will be considered.

Self-nomination is acceptable and encouraged!

All nominations close at midnight on December 23rd. The Board of Directors will review all nominations and elections will begin on or about January 2nd.  You can nominate using the form below however if the form does not appear, please use the direct link to the form here:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1x3BUjDaankgTXn13iIGTNa6WWRRSD5zfNttSnZNUhsI/viewform?usp=send_form

 

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E-Liquid Manufacturing & Sales

Over the last year, it’s become apparent that lots of vapers are trying to break into the industry. Unfortunately this has created a growing trend with illegal e-liquid manufacturing operations popping up. While it’s exciting to see so many people wanting to get involved in the industry, it’s critical that everyone understands that Utah very strict regulations and legalities on the operation of a manufacturing facility and the sales of e-liquid. For those that go through the red tape to get their business legally licensed, illegal operations are a slap in their face and pose a danger to the public. These operations also make what we do at UTSFA very difficult and ultimately damage the reputation of the statewide industry and cause our lawmakers to come up with more regulations for the legitimate businesses to endure.

In every county in the metro area, your manufacturing business must be licensed and inspected by the county and have all proper business licenses to operate legally. Details of the licensing requirements can be found on the “Utah Laws” page and we’re happy to help you navigate the process and explain what it all means. Utah is also very fortunate to be home to numerous contract manufacturing facilities who will be happy to work with you and manufacture your product under your logo and your recipes in a properly equipped, licensed and insured facility. We can help you find a suitable one if you would like to go this route.

When we discover a new e-liquid manufacturer on the scene, we attempt to reach out to discuss the business and make sure it’s legal. However, if it’s not and the owner refuses to take immediate steps to legalize their business, we will do what is necessary to protect the legal business owners, the image of the entire statewide industry and ultimately the safety of the consumers. This includes passing information on the illegal operation to the respective health department and any other necessary authorities. We would prefer to never have to do this but illegal businesses hurt everyone and this cannot be tolerated.

A few key points on the legalities of the Utah industry:

  • It is illegal for a Utah e-liquid manufacturer or retailer to sell to a Utah resident online (including social media) or “meet up” to make the sale.
  • It is illegal for someone to manufacture e-liquid in a home-based facility and sell to the public.
  • It is illegal for someone to manufacture e-liquid in Utah in a facility which has not been licensed by the county to manufacture e-liquid
  • Sales of vapor products and e-liquid to the Utah public can only be done through a physical Retail operation which has obtained the required business license and e-cigarette retail licensing.

We ask anyone who is currently operating in an unlicensed/home-based facility or who may be considering getting into the industry to review the breakdown of laws on the “Utah Laws” page under the Legislation banner above. Utah doesn’t allow a parking lot taco cart to sell a single taco without all the required licensing and permits and our industry is no different. Continuing to operate in this manner will only result in tougher restrictions that will create serious harm on the entire statewide industry.

We also ask that all social media group admins keep an eye on this and prohibit anyone posting the sale of e-liquid as a business type posting if they cannot prove they are properly licensed to manufacture.  Allowing this to occur or supporting it by allowing purchase of the product is knowingly supporting illegal behavior.

We understand that everyone wants to get into the industry but it’s important that you do it correctly from the start.  If anyone has questions on this, we encourage you to reach out to us via the contact form on our website so a member of our team can work with you.

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Membership Drive

My fellow Utah vapers. Everyone is certainly aware of the struggles with regulation we have been through over the last 5 years in Utah. Frankly put, we’ve been put through hell and back but we’ve survived. The 2016 legislative session is right around the corner and we’ll once again be facing another big fight – taxation. Taxation of our industry is gaining steam around the country and it’s critically important that we are aligned and ready to battle. We as an industry will not accept ANY taxation beyond the current sales tax we are paying. Sin taxes were created for the purpose of behavior control for habits that the nanny’s felt were bad for our health (cigarettes and alcohol specifically here). What has become apparent in the recent 18 months, taxing our industry has nothing to do about health or “protecting the children”. Many of our elected leaders have gone on record that they want the money to fill gaps in the state budgets; both in Utah and in many other states.

What they and the supporters of taxation do not realize is that by taxing these products, it will force EVERY small business owner to close due to the inability to compete in the market. After all, why would a consumer pay $50 for a bottle of liquid when they can get the exact same product for half that cost online. I wouldn’t pay it nor would anyone else. This proposed taxation, risks forcing over 600 of our Utah brothers and sisters out of work. When this happens, the industry loses AND the state loses. They lose all expected tax money they hoped to gain. They lose property and employment tax. They lose sales tax. And worse, they commit public health malpractice by keeping smokers smoking and possibly forcing vapers back to smoking due to the unavailability of products.

We need EVERY vaping business owner to get involved now. We plan to fight this hard and fast but we cannot do that without membership. We have plans to get the best people in the country involved in this fight but the fight is not free. Ask yourself, what will you as a business owner do if taxation forces you out of business in the next 6-8 months. There is only one way to fight this and that is by joining forces and fighting together. If we lose this battle and you’ve done nothing to support it, there will be only one person to blame.

We have several membership options available which are outlined on our membership page here http://utsmokefree.org/directory/professional/. Join the 24 existing members of the Utah Smoke Free Association who have already committed to the fight financially to save the industry.  Every unsigned vapor business should join today so we can continue to fight for the rights of the industry and so you can demonstrate your commitment to remain in business in 2016 and continue the good work you do in helping Utah’s smokers make a positive change in their lives.

Either contact a member of the Board of Directors today or click the Join button below to register your intent to join.

join

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November 14th Deseret News Rebuttal

This post is in response to the Deseret News editorial posted today at the following link. Because they limit responses to 200 words, we posted a very brief response with a link to this posting.  http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865641501/The-FDAs-delay-in-releasing-electronic-cigarette-regulations-is-putting-the-young-at-risk.html

Everyone, even the editorial board is entitled to their opinion. However, for a journalistic source, one would hope they would at least get their facts straight and tell the truth; or has the Deseret News turned into nothing more than an outlet to spew rhetoric over facts?

While it’s true the public comment period has ended, it is not true the FDA is sitting back waiting on the results of studies (although they should). At the present time, the proposed regulations (of which nobody has seen after the recent edits) are sitting with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The law requires the OMB/OIRA to go through a brief public comment period of their own which allows the citizens of the US to meet and discuss impact, whether positive or negative. This process is underway and is running through around the end of the year.

You claim that millions of Americans are ingesting harmful chemicals with long-term consequence yet provide no data to back it up. Maybe because there is data of which you can refer to. All agencies within the US are too blinded by the tax money they get from combustible tobacco that you would rather demonize an industry that has helped nearly 15 million smokers break free. Our allies in the UK have done what nobody in the US has been willing to do; they commissioned studies and reviewed all existing ones and determined e-cigarettes are at least 95% less harmful than inhaling tobacco smoke (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/457102/Ecigarettes_an_evidence_update_A_report_commissioned_by_Public_Health_England_FINAL.pdf).

You ask that the FDA releases the regulations but you must understand something about this $3.5 Billion dollar industry. With the industry, comes jobs. By our estimation, around 75,000 US jobs to be precise. There are over 600 of your Utah friends and family members employed in this industry. Our industry has been pivotal in the historic low smoking rates recently reported by the CDC. Something that no government agency could do but private industry did without any taxpayer assistance. These regulations, pose a very real risk to forcing over 75,000 Americans out of work and around 12,000 business owners into bankruptcy.

Our industry has never condoned underage usage and are among the most vocal against it. We self-police social media and regularly report illegal activities to the necessary authorities. We are regularly visited by the police performing underage stings and have a high success rate in stopping the sale; unlike many other points of retail which the kids know will sell them. We asked the 2015 legislature to implement a law requiring the use of electronic age verification at every retail point of sale statewide that sells age restricted products (alcohol, tobacco and e-cigarette products). This was rejected before it even made it to committee. Ask yourselves, why does THIS industry want it but the lawmakers and lobbyists don’t? Who do you think wants the kids smoking and using age restricted products?

You claim that the use of flavors is used to lure kids into using our products. Several population level studies consisting of 10’s of thousands of adult consumers shows that the flavors are what allowed the products to be successful in our journey to quit. One such study can be found here: http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/10/12/7272. Many industries use flavors not to attract kids, but because adults enjoy flavors. Continuing to argue this is our target audience is slanderous at best. If anyone doesn’t believe me, all you have to do is walk into a liquor store and look at cupcake vodka or look at the pharmaceutical industry in their manufacturing of Fruit Chill nicotine gum.

You state that some of the vapor tested contains heavy metals and organic compounds. While this is true, what you do not state is that the metals detected are below USP standards for metals in inhalation medications. You also do not inform the readers that the NRT products which the Utah taxpayers fund to hand out at no cost to smokers also contains heavy metals and at levels higher than e-cigarettes. This isn’t to say that improvement isn’t needed but you must be honest to the readers.

While usage by underage youth is unacceptable, the data actually disproves the gateway theory since underage smoking is at historic low rates and seems to indicate e-cigarettes are diverting our teens away from combustible tobacco. Whether the products are advertised or not, illegal or not, our teens will find a way to get them. We see this with the SHARP data showing the use of marijuana which is federally illegal and only available in the black market. We see it with alcohol which is only available to those over 21 (which by the way, neither product is regulated by the FDA).

What public health and our media owe to the people is the truth. The truth that your addiction to the tax money and creating moral panic is more important to you than the health of the people. The truth that for 20 years, the smoking rates plateaued and nothing was making a dent. The truth that THIS consumer run industry did in 10 years what public health could not, by being the reason nearly 9 million Americans are no longer smoking. The truth that if the FDA regulations are enacted as they are written, this industry will close almost overnight forcing over 9 million Americans back to combustible tobacco.

Public health and our media suggest that only FDA approved cessation products should be used to quit smoking. What they are telling the 42 million smokers is that if they can’t quit, they should die trying rather than to use a product which is scientifically proven to be at least 95% less harmful. Shame on public health. Shame on the Deseret News.  Don’t be a sheeple and simply believe everything that you read in the media.  Do your own research. We provided links above and are happy to provide you whatever you need to come to your own informed conclusion.

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Utah Regulations Action Alert

Public comment is now being accepted on the Utah “Electronic Cigarette Substance Standards – Rule R384-415”.  Details of how to participate are at the bottom of this message but we ask that you please review the full details below in addition to the proposed rules prior to submitting comment.

 

The passage of HB415 during the 2015 legislative session required that the Utah Department of Health convene a special committee comprised of industry and health agency stakeholders to design e-liquid regulations for labeling, nicotine content, packaging, and product quality. For the last 3 months, the Utah Smoke Free Association along with other industry stakeholders have been participating in the committee to provide input and help guide the design of the rules.

Although the UTSFA participated in the committee, we are unable to support the proposed rules.  We feel the impact on the industry and small business owners were completely ignored and believe that the proposed regulations will force non-Utah manufacturers to cease distribution of their products through all retail channels in Utah.  This will force most vapor specialty retailers out of business due to the inability to provide products to the consumers in the state; leaving over 600 Utah families facing unemployment. We also believe that by placing stricter regulations on the vapor industry than what is currently required of the tobacco industry, Utah is clearly stating they support Big Tobacco over small business owners who are trying to help Utah residents break free from traditional tobacco.

The proposed rules apply to ALL retail operations (including gas stations, c-stores, smoke shops and vapor specialty businesses) and distributors selling bottled e-liquid to Utah residents or Utah retail operations; or for any e-liquid manufacturers within the state of Utah. This also includes all e-liquid manufactured outside of Utah and sold through Utah retail and/or distribution channels. Despite comments made by the Utah Department of Health, the proposed regulations will have significant impact on all retail / distribution channels who sell refillable e-liquid and Utah based manufacturers.  We firmly believe these regulations will force specialty retailers to close their doors permanently due to the inability to stock products that meet the overburdensome regulations.

If e-liquid manufacturers are unable to comply with even one item in the regulations, sales of the product will be prohibited. Unfortunately only the retailer of e-liquid products holds full accountability for any financial enforcement penalties; up to and including revocation of their e-cigarette or tobacco sales license.

We encourage all business owners & stakeholders (regardless of retail type) who sell or manufacture e-liquid to participate in the public comment period and request the regulations be stricken from HB415 and revisited in 2016 in a more considered and balanced approach to both the health of our residents AND impact to the industry. Consumers are also encouraged to participate.  Please review the proposed regulations along with our simplified breakdown at the following links before submitting public comment to ensure you understand the full impact of the proposal.

A copy of the proposed regulations can be found here: http://www.rules.utah.gov/publicat/bulletin/2015/20151015/39797.htm

A simplified version of the regulations can be found here: Proposed Rule R384-415

 

For Retailers, your comments should include:

  • Estimated annual financial impact to comply with R384-415-10 Record Keeping and Testing.
  • Estimated monthly financial loss if non-Utah e-liquid suppliers will no longer ship to your location due to the regulations
  • Potential loss of sales due to nicotine content restrictions (see above “Proposed Rule R384-415 document)
  • Number of employees affected if the regulations force the closure of your business

For Manufacturers, your comments should include:

  • Estimated annual financial costs for;
  • Financial impact of any label redesign
  • Financial impact for the implementation of a batch tracing system
  • Financial impact of nicotine testing of every batch manufactured
  • Financial impact of packaging modification (CRC caps/tamper evident seals)
  • Potential loss of sales due to nicotine content restrictions (see above “Proposed Rule R384-415 document)

For consumers, your comments should include:

  • What you will do if your preferred e-liquid brands are no longer available.
  • What you will do if vapor products are no longer available in Utah due to the over-regulation of the industry.
  • If you are employed by one of the estimated 70 vapor businesses, what impact would you and your family experience if you suddenly became unemployed because of the over-regulation.

The public comment period runs from 5pm on October 15th through 5pm on November 16th. All comments submitted will become public record and viewable to the public so please keep all comments factual and professional.  All comments must be emailed to Luke Chalmers tpcprules@utah.gov with the subject: Comments on Proposed Rule R384-415.  You are also welcome to include the UTSFA on your email by copying board@utsmokefree.org

At the completion of the public comment period, the rules may be modified where deemed appropriate by the Utah Dept. of Health followed by submission to the Legislative Administrative Rules Committee for their review and approval. We believe this will occur sometime between November 16th and the end of the year.  Per requirements in HB415, the rules must be completed and signed off by January 1st with enforcement beginning on July 1st 2016.

 

We have also organized 2 industry conference calls over the next 2 weeks where we will discuss the regulations, the anticipated impact on the industry and answer any questions you may have.  Click the date & time below for the invites with dial information.

Call 1 – Friday October 23rd, 3:30-5:00 PM

Call 2 – Thursday October 29th, 4:00-5:30 PM

 

If you have any questions on the regulations or would like to make phone contact, please use our contact page and submit a request to the Board of Directors.

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State Health Department Rules

Attention Utah retailer and manufacturing community plus any national e-liquid manufacturers who distribute through Utah based retailers. We just completed the final meeting with the state health department on the proposed rules relating to the passage of HB415 during the last legislative session. These rules require the creation of specific rule language surrounding e-liquid bottle labels, packaging, nicotine quality and nicotine content.

The proposed rules enter public comment today for the next 30 days closing on 13-November. The UTSFA is in the process of analyzing the final rule language and industry impact. We will work to have our analysis completed within the next 48 hours and when finished, will publish full details online along with our position on each rule and how to submit public comment.

As always, the UTSFA is committed to protecting not only the rights of our consumers to make a better and more informed choice but for protecting business rights & interests throughout the state of Utah and beyond. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have but please allow us the necessary time to complete our analysis and release the details so everyone has an opportunity to make informed public comment.

~Aaron Frazier, UTSFA Executive Director

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