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Tax hearing wrap-up

Just a quick summary on the legislative hearing from this week.  We had representation from myself and your board president Tad Jensen.  Also attending the meeting from the statewide industry was EB Vapors, Vapor Logic and Peak Vapor.  We have always been an association dedicated to representing this industry and it’s consumers in the best possible manner and we were proud to once again be at the forefront of the issue to meet with the committee members and discuss the perils of taxation.  Our lobbyists also were working hard behind the scenes to speak with the chair and various members ahead of time and it was obvious throughout the hearing that our message was heard.

The committee was first presented with a “state of business” as it relates to taxation of tobacco products and a brief summary of the laws that passed during the recent session.  The Utah Tax commission then spoke about the complexities associated with taxing the industry; which as we all know, even if it happens will not be a simple task like it is with tobacco.  

Members of the committee approached the issue with an open mind and asked all the right questions.  It was asked several times by more than one committee member why we would want to tax a product that is quite obviously reducing the harm for smokers; even referred to the zero nicotine products as “mormon cigarettes” (LOL).  Besides those from the industry mentioned above, there were 2 medical professionals that testified but in my humble opinion, were lackluster in their content.  

Overall, the committee was very open and seemed to be supportive of what we are doing as an industry to help the smokers and their loved ones throughout the state.  Several from the committee even expressed a desire to visit a few shops and experience the products.  No decisions were made at the hearing so this topic will continue to be discussed at future hearings.

In closing I want to thank Stonne from EB, Josh from Vapor Logic, Austin from Peak Vapor and Tad from ElectronicStix/UTSFA for their support of the industry.  Everyone represented our views very well and handled themselves with a high level of decorum.  

You can read a bit more on the write up the Deseret News did on the hearing here: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865630930/Lawmakers-resume-deliberations-of-possible-e-cigarette-tax.html?pg=all

And the Utah Political News write up here: http://utahpoliticalcapitol.com/2015/06/22/e-cigarettes-to-tax-or-not-to-tax-lawmakers-take-a-look/#

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We need your help

The Utah Smoke Free Association needs everyone’s help. We are within a month of not having sufficient funds to pay our lobbyists for the remainder of the year. What this means is that we will lose our inside track to fighting bad taxation, bad regulation and bad press. The industry NEEDS our lobbyists to fight for the rights of every shop and every vaper in the state, but sadly it appears we will be unable to continue this fight.

This organization was founded on the principals of fighting for the rights of EVERYONE but it takes everyone’s involvement to help fund the fight. If you are a business owner and you want to be in business a year from now or are a vaper who believes in keeping the business local to support Utah consumers, we need your help. Even if you own a business or know someone who owns a business who would like to help keep our industry alive, please get involved today!

Please see the “Organization Update” post below for more information on how YOU can get involved!  We cannot fight this fight without YOU!

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FDA Deeming Authority Clarification Act of 2015

CASAA is a consumer-based, non-profit organization that works to ensure the availability of low-risk alternatives to smoking and to provide the public with truthful information about such alternatives.  (PRNewsFoto/Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association)

CASAA is a consumer-based, non-profit organization that works to ensure the availability of low-risk alternatives to smoking and to provide the public with truthful information about such alternatives. (PRNewsFoto/Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association)

The FDA Deeming Authority Clarification Act of 2015 (HR 2058), introduced by Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, would save the U.S. vapor industry from being decimated by improper regulations by the FDA. This bill would amend the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act to change the grandfather date for “deemed tobacco products.” This change would allow for all vapor products currently on the market to remain on the market without being subject to the burdensome (read: prohibitive) pre-market FDA approval application process.

 

While CASAA and the UTSFA maintains the position that a separate regulatory scheme should be developed for vapor products*, we are proud to support HR 2058.

 

We are asking consumers to express strong support for HR 2058 and urge your representatives to co-sponsor this bill.

Please share this link on social media:

We are also asking members who are not residents in Representative Cole’s district to send a written letter by traditional means. You can print out our pre-written letter here. We have provided the mailing address to his Norman, OK office below. As usual, you are encouraged to write your own letter adding your personal story, but feel free to copy ours.

Rep. Tom Cole
2467 Rayburn HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-6165
Fax: (202) 225-3512
 

Additionally, residents in Kentucky, North Carolina, California, and Florida living in a district represented by one of the sponsors of H.R. 2058 will be receiving a separate email that links to a message tailored to offering support for the effort of their congressmen.

 

Thank you,

CASAA Legislative Team

 

 

(Writing Tip #1) If you have a lot to say, please craft your email in a separate word doc and then copy/paste it into the field provided.  If you take too long, they system will time out and you will lose your work.

(Writing Tip #2) Although we’ve provided a prewritten email with compelling talking points, we would strongly encourage you to edit the email because personalized communications to legislators are far more persuasive than form letters.  At a minimum, PLEASE INSERT YOUR PERSONAL STORY (just a few sentences) in the text of your email.

*Although CASAA feels that moving the grandfather date to a point in time that will protect consumer access to the current variety of vapor products on the market is a step in the right direction, this is by no means an ideal solution. Consumers should keep in mind that if this Act is adopted by Congress, innovations in safety, quality, and variety of devices and liquids essentially will be frozen at the time the FDA deeming regulation is finalized. Moreover, this change in the grandfather date will not exempt manufacturers from registering their products with the FDA, a process that will still remove a large number of vapor products from the market. CASAA maintains the position that a separate regulatory scheme should be developed for this product category.

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Battery Safety


All batteries can explode, and it can happen with electronic cigarette batteries. Which is a shame, as every single incident we have heard of so far has been avoidable. If you follow the correct safety procedures, e-cigarette battery explosions are very rare – about 1 in 10 million. To enjoy vaping safely, follow the simple rules in this infographic (click the image for a larger version).

We would like to thank our friends at ECigaretteDirect for this information and encourage you to go to their site for more detailed information on battery safety.

 

E-Cigarette_Battery_Safety_Infographic

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Myths & Truths

In light of all the lies, propaganda and misinformation circulating right now courtesy of the CDC and the California Health Mafia, I thought it would be fitting to include a poster that is going out to all our member shops.

UTSFA Truth Poster

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Congratulations ElectronicStix

The Utah Smoke Free Association would like to congratulate ElectronicStix in Ogden on their successful ID check during a recent underage sting.  ElectronicStix takes a very serious approach at checking IDs using the Bar & Club ID software and requires employees to scan every ID (regardless of the customers age) before selling any product to a customer.

Considering that failing a sting can result in fines, criminal penalties and the loss of a business license; ID checking must be a very serious step in the retail sales process.  ElectronicStix continues to do things right and we are proud of your on going accomplishments and for setting a high mark for the industry!

 

Click the image below to see a copy of their audit letter received alerting them to their success.

verified

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What have we done?


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Some have been questioning the benefit of the UTSFA is and why membership is so important.  Others believe that the fees we charge (of which $0 goes to anyone on the board) are too high. Allow me to outline what our group has done for the Utah industry.

  1. The Utah Smoke Free Association, formerly the Utah Vapers Association, was one of the first statewide organizations in the country and has been the only true “boots on the ground” organization in Utah for the last 4+ years.  We have fought at every legislative hearing since our formation.
  2. No other state or national organization has spent as many hours (days, weeks!) fighting for the rights of the individual Utah business owners thereby fighting for every vaping consumer in the state (and beyond).
  3. No other state shares in the unique political climate of the Utah Legislature mixed with the unique influences of the church.  An influence that spills over into every single government sub-agency and an influence that must be carefully catered for and managed.  One size fits all advocacy does not work in Utah.
  4. No other organization locally or nationally has the respect given to us for the positive relationships we have spent 4 years growing.

 

Ok that’s all well and good, but what have we REALLY done?

Including the one session prior to the formation of our organization, we have:

  1. Beat a legislative bill to ban vapor products entirely.  We included this even though we had not been formed because the same community that came together when we formed, pulled together and beat this with no formal coordination (2010)
  2. Beat a legislative bill to ban flavors (2011)
  3. Lost a legislative bill that (2012):
    1. Lumped vapor products under Utah’s tobacco definitions thereby creating highly restrictive zoning regulations but still allowed for an estimated 45 dedicated vapor shops to open and service the community.
    2. Created an online sales ban for Utah businesses to Utah customers.
    3. Included vapor products & hookahs in the indoor clean air act for 5 years
  4. Helped to defeat a bill to raise the use age to 21 (2013)
  5. In response to our opponents complaints of the industry, introduced the first ever set of industry self-regulations at the state level for retailers and manufacturers to help reduce and prevent against youth access and improve the quality of products being manufactured in the state. (2013)
  6. Fought Bountiful city hall, the city attorney and the mayor through a heavy media and social media campaign (with the help of the only attorney available over the Christmas week holiday) to protect 4 vapor speciality retailers from being shut down 3 days after Christmas (2013/2014).
  7. Beat a legislative bill to over regulate manufacturing, labeling, packaging and more; preventing outside companies from distributing into Utah. (2014)
    1. This had the unfortunate side effect of allowing each individual county to regulate manufacturing and retail sales including varying levels of packaging, labeling and permit requirements.
    2. We worked with several of the county health departments, including flying in specialists from AEMSA to help ensure the manufacturing regulations being introduced were sensible and manageable for both the departments and the industry.
    3. Attended and submitted both written and verbal testimony at every county level regulation hearing available to ensure the bill language was accurate and the regulations were sensible, sustainable and as aligned as possible.
  8. Participated as a presenter in a region-wide health conference to educate mental health workers, nurses and doctors on the positive aspects of vaping as an alternative to smoking. (2014)
  9. Invited to present to doctors and nurses that care for one of the largest Indian populations in the Mountain West on about the positive aspects of vaping as an alternative to smoking. (2014)
  10. Relaunched the Utah Vapers Association into the Utah Smoke Free Association, a formal 501(c)4 trade association dedicated to industry excellence and advocacy to protect the rights of all business owners and consumers throughout the state of Utah. (2014)
  11. Designed and implemented the first ever statewide industry active age verification program at the point of sale through heavy coordination and development with 2 different manufacturers to prove our dedication to cutting off access to youth at the point of sale. A program we tried to introduce at the statewide level which was fought by the retail merchants association and Big Tobacco (2014/2015)
  12. Turned a bill that would have decimated the industry into a good bill by (2015):
    1. Hiring a team of highly skilled lobbyists to bring a level of expertise and professionalism at the capitol our statewide industry has never had.
    2. Killing an 86.5% tax requested by and supported by our Governor (through brilliant CTA assistance from CASAA, NVC and NJOY along with the vaping community input)
    3. Creating numerous amendments to the bill through careful coordination with with the House of Representatives and the Senate
    4. Held one of the first ever roundtables with lobbyists across many industries to align our strategies
    5. Hosted a fly in with key industry and related industry dignitaries (NJOY, NVC, ATR, AVA, Altria, RJR and more)
    6. Received written support to the Senate and House from a notable addiction specialist
    7. Met with and received tremendous support from the House of Representatives and the Senate (including leadership from both) on the strides we have taken as an industry.

All of this doesn’t count the shops and manufacturers we have consulted with over the last 4 years to help them get their start and become profitable.  It also doesn’t include the countless events we hosted where we helped hundreds of smokers make a life changing improvement in their life and thereby improving the lives of their families.  It doesn’t include the positive relationships we developed in the media and public community to help drive a positive image of our industry and vaping community.  We could go on and on but I think the above speaks very clearly.  If you agree with us and are impressed with our achievements in the last 4 years, what until you see what we do in the next few years!

So next time someone suggests to you they are “the first”,  are “the only” or brag about what they bring to the table for the Utah vaping community, you should ask them where they have been when the fights mattered and what have they done to protect the interests of the business and the Utah vaping family….

 

Keep your cotton wet, your batteries charged and your loved ones close…

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HB415 Call to Action

There are some strange politics going on in Utah, where rules of process are being waived in order to quickly pass a law.  House Bill 415 risks driving up prices, deny Utah consumers access to the products they enjoy, and may squash many Utah small businesses. This bill must be defeated, or heavily amended, today. This is your last chance to speak out!

How important are convenient access, variety, and affordability to you?

Utah Senators will be hearing House Bill 415 very soon, which will dramatically affect the vapor community’s access to a variety of products by defining them as  “tobacco products” in these bills, narrowly restricting where shops can be located, banning all online sales, dictating how your favorite brands must change their labels (if they are to be continued to be sold in Utah at all), and forbidding nearly all advertising of the products.  To be clear, none of this new law makes the products in Utah better, safer, or less available to minors.  Rather, it appears to be intended to squeeze your local vapor businesses until they just close up and leave the state, while also keeping many of your favorite e-liquid companies completely shut out of selling in Utah.  Contact your senators today and ask them to defeat this bill now with a “NO” vote on HB 415, unless all of the changes outlined below are made in the bill!!!

If this bill becomes law, you will likely pay significantly more for your products that remain available in the state! Companies will have to raise prices to pay for all of the added unnecessary regulations and bureaucratic red tape in this bill and then have to pass this cost onto you.  Also, there will not be many legal places to sell vapor products because of new restrictions on where stores can remain open. So, prices will also likely rise as stores will no longer have to compete for your business.

The new regulations requiring special labeling would mean many of your favorite brands couldn’t be legally sold in Utah.  So, even if you could afford the increased prices, or find a retailer near you that chooses to carry the brand you like, the selection on the shelves will be much less than it is currently.  While some brands will find a way to make a special package for Utah sales, most will likely not want to incur this cost and the risk of legal action if a mistake is made by their distribution process.  As a result, you could quickly find that you cannot buy products you love without driving to a neighboring state

BAD IDEAS DON’T BECOME GOOD ONES JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE PROPOSED EVERY YEAR.  The sponsor of this bill, Rep. Paul Ray, has spent years trying to pass his anti-vapor law. And, his fellow members may be getting worn down from repeatedly defeating his bills.  But, your Senators need to hear from you, the people they have sworn to represent, that you want this bill defeated to preserve your access to these products! Their loyalty needs to be to their own voters, not a bill sponsor who refuses to work with the vapor community on damaging aspects of his bill.

Make sure they understand your story on how these products have changed your life and then ask them to use their own vote to represent you with a “NO” vote on HB 415!

The Senators need to hear YOUR story about:

  • How these products have changed your life
  • How variety, access, and price of these products are important to you.

Suggest the bill be changed so that it:

  • Extends “preemption” to all vapor products, just like they do for tobacco products and cig-a-likes in the bill.  This means that the state law would supersede any local law and would prevent multiple and conflicting regulations in cities and counties. 
  • Defines the products accurately and removes vapor products from the definition of “tobacco.”
  • Requires federal standards for child-resistant packaging and labeling (not Utah-specific ones)
  • Requires vapor stores to risk losing their business license if they break the law rather than requiring them to get a tobacco retailers license.
  • Allows for legal online sales, but only when seller utilizes industry-standard age verification software to prevent sales to minors.
  • Removes advertising restrictions, (the state is at risk of financial loss due to a 1st amendment lawsuit if this restriction remains in the bill).

 

Please call AND email to ask the legislators to vote “NO” on HB 415 unless these changes have been both proposed and accepted.

As a consumer of vapor products, you know better than most that these products are NOT tobacco, are NOTHING like combustible cigarettes, and that cost and full access to them are important to you.  But, YOUR story is the one missing in this discussion while anti-vapor groups have sent their high-dollar lobbyists into Utah to persuade your own legislative representatives to regulate your products just like tobacco. If you care about cost and access of your e-cigarettes, make sure your voice is heard. You really CAN make a difference!

This bill will be voted on and become law by Thursday, March 12, or sooner!  So, please act quickly to let your senator know about your concerns, and how you would like them to vote!   Please call and email the members of the Senate right away. Find your Senator’s contact information here.

If you are short on time to look up email addresses, or don’t feel comfortable writing your own original email, CASAA has this quick and easy form you can use, instead.  You should add a brief edit to their pre-written letter to explain how these products are important to you, so your email isn’t a duplicate of others.  CASAA will send your email to all of the appropriate legislators on your behalf with one click. 

ImportantBe courteous and respectful at all times.  You should assume they know very little about vapor products, why people use them, and that they generally want good information so they can do the right thing for the citizens of Utah.  Your legislator is not your enemy and is your best chance to save your vaping rights.  So, educate them and ask them to support your position that this bill needed heavy amending, but since the sponsor wouldn’t budge, it must be defeated.

If you receive any follow up from your senators, please post them in the comments below.

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Legislative Update

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Just a quick update on the Utah legislation on or associated with the vapor industry:

  1. HB0130 – Raise use age to 21. This bill has not moved out of the rules committee and by all appearances from what our and the other lobbyists have indicated, it likely will not move thus end up in the trash. We do not support this bill and continue to monitor it for any activity.
  2. HB0131 – Tobacco shop amendments. This bill requires that anyone entering a tobacco specialty store (smoke shop) must be 19 or accompanied by an adult. This is the same law that vape shops already must follow if they take the sampling exemption. We do support this bill as it places smoke shops with the same set of rules we must follow.  We have already expressed our support for this bill to the sponsor both in writing and through our lobbying team.
  3. HB0415 – Electronic Cigarette Regulation. The taxation has been removed from this bill at this time but are monitoring for any future activity with it. It also will require proper caps, labels and permits for anyone that sells vapor products. It also does not set a preemption which means this is another set of regulations on top of the country level regulations. We will not support this bill on any level without a preemption clause would forces this bill to be the defacto “law of the land”. We also have asked that any language on caps or labels be tied to federal standards/laws so Utah does not have a unique set of rules compared to other states. We have been told that other supporters in affiliate industries also share in the same concerns outlined above. This bill is currently sitting in the rules committee (first step for all bills) which means it cannot be presented to the house or any other committee until it passes this step. We will continue monitoring this but at this time, there is no action that can be taken until we know how the language will fall on the proposal.

The legislative session ends at midnight on March 13th so we are just under 2 weeks left in the session.  We anticipate that they will vote to “suspend the rules” on Monday the 9th.  This means they will be allowed to cancel all committee meetings for bill discussions and present the bills directly to the house and senate floors.  We don’t yet know how this will play out with HB415 but will keep a close eye on it and let everyone know what they need to do once it’s time.

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Utah Smoke Free Association

Our new website is under construction and will be launched soon.  We apologize for any inconvenience our construction zone may cause you.  Please check back soon for our new website!

For any questions or media inquiries in the meantime, please contact board@utsmokefree.org

 

The Utah Smoke Free Association is a state and federally registered 501(c)4 organization dedicated to Tobacco Harm Reduction and vapor industry retail and manufacturing excellence.

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