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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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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:
- 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)
- Beat a legislative bill to ban flavors (2011)
- Lost a legislative bill that (2012):
- 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.
- Created an online sales ban for Utah businesses to Utah customers.
- Included vapor products & hookahs in the indoor clean air act for 5 years
- Helped to defeat a bill to raise the use age to 21 (2013)
- 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)
- 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).
- Beat a legislative bill to over regulate manufacturing, labeling, packaging and more; preventing outside companies from distributing into Utah. (2014)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- Turned a bill that would have decimated the industry into a good bill by (2015):
- Hiring a team of highly skilled lobbyists to bring a level of expertise and professionalism at the capitol our statewide industry has never had.
- 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)
- Creating numerous amendments to the bill through careful coordination with with the House of Representatives and the Senate
- Held one of the first ever roundtables with lobbyists across many industries to align our strategies
- Hosted a fly in with key industry and related industry dignitaries (NJOY, NVC, ATR, AVA, Altria, RJR and more)
- Received written support to the Senate and House from a notable addiction specialist
- 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…by