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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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2016 Elections

electionWe are now almost just days away from the 2016 election. This has been one of the most talked about election years in modern history so we’ll spare you all the details because most of you have your opinions clearly set. We also will never tell anyone how they should vote as we believe this is in poor taste and is an individual decision each of you must make. Each of you should vote your conscious for the individuals you feel BEST represent your beliefs and views. The only thing we do strongly suggest is to avoid voting straight party as in our opinion, this is lazy and keeps the same people in power that have placed our state or country in the position it is today.

 

Registering to vote:

In Utah, the deadline to register has already passed so your only option is online. You must submit the online form no later than November 1st to be eligible to vote in the election. https://secure.utah.gov/voterreg/index.html

 

Contacting the candidates:
We encourage everyone to get out and contact everyone running for public office in your district or state. Most should have Facebook accounts that they or their staff monitor daily and is an easy way to get a message to them. You should also look for their campaign pages online and contact them via email that way so there is a good paper trail. We have already received responses to most messages sent and at least one has generated a face-to-face meeting. Some suggestions on things to discuss (industry related of course):
  • What are their views about the vapor industry
  • Tell your personal quit story but keep it short (2-3 sentences max)
  • Have access to the latest science that you can quote and provide
  • Any other topic that is important to YOU…remember, YOU are the one voting and they will be working to represent your views.

Regardless of how you feel about the presidential race, it is CRITICAL everyone gets out and votes this election. Almost all positions state-wide are up for reelection so this is the best time to let your voice be heard and unlike the presidential race, your vote matters more now than ever.

voicevote

 

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Fight for Vaping

vapefightSeptember marks the time of the year that the UTSFA begins to refocus our time and effort away from the summer and towards the January start of the legislative session. On September 24th, we will be co-hosting our annual fundraiser to raise funds not only for Utah advocacy, but most importantly for the fight on the federal level. What’s going to happen in Utah is still a mystery but we can tell you we have some things of our own in the works. What we expect to happen this year is:

  • A return of Students Against Electronic Vaping, a statewide high school group
  • A third return of Tobacco21
  • A fifth attempt at taxation
  • A bill to ban all vaping at vapor specialty retailers
  • A bill to clean up the 2015 HB0415 bill due to the FDA deeming regulations
  • A bill to address the federally illegal nature of prior bills

We believe this to just be a partial list of what will come our way this next session. This will be the most active legislative session to date and we need all hands on deck. We need the ENTIRE community to be in close contact with their elected representatives so they understand our community is large and will not sit back and be walked all over.

Advocacy isn’t as cheap as it once was as the battles now require the industry to employ a team of lobbyists and attorneys to help keep the bills at bey and doing significant damage to the industry. Simply showing up to hearings and meetings is no longer enough.

If you own an industry business and are in Utah but are not supporting the local fight financially, please understand one important point. If a tax bill passes, the Utah industry will end and your business will close. It takes lobbyists and the strong relationships we have with several powerful national organizations who back the UTSFA efforts to keep this from happening. Look what happened in Pennsylvania, Washington DC and other areas that passed their taxes. Within weeks of the tax passing, businesses started closing down and employees were left without jobs. Lobbyists and Attorneys are NOT cheap and we need ALL businesses to contribute to the local fight so we have sufficient funds. We also try and be prepared to bring in some very powerful national allies but alas, they too are not free.

If you are a business and want a stronger voice in the fight, click here to join as a member or a sponsor and stand up to help us fight back. If you are a consumer, consider donating $20 or as much as you can to help out – this is less than one Beans & Brew speciality coffee a week. To see which of the excellent Utah industry businesses contribute financially to help protect our right to vape, click here.

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2016 Sine Die

sinedie“House file for bills not passed” is one of the most exciting things we as advocates can hope to see on a bill during a legislative session – at least when the bill it references targets the industry we love so much. This was seen THREE times during this session!

The legislative session has ended and we have been victorious at beating back the Tobacco21 movement for this year in addition to TWO attempts at taxation. This was no small undertaking and took tremendous footwork by not only our organization and our lobbyists but all in the vaping community. It’s no secret that this year was our most intense battle yet with old lies being renewed and new lies being created. We had to go toe to toe with a new high school organization that had their targets set on the industry. While there were high points and low points in this year’s battle, in the end we managed to once again protect over 25,000 consumers, 75 business owners and close to 900 industry employees.

I want to talk about Rep Paul Ray for just a moment. There are some who feel that we don’t go after him enough in a more direct fashion; especially for his use of children as pawns to get his legislation passed. While we do agree that using children as pawns is poor behavior for any politician, we will not directly attack him for it regardless of how many kids get bussed into the capitol. We’ve worked the Utah political scene long enough to know that when you back someone with a personal agenda (some would argue vendetta) into a corner and force them into a defensive posture, it makes them angrier and more prone to combative behavior; which during a legislative session is VERY dangerous and akin to lighting a powder keg. Actions like this can have severe consequences on the outcome and we are not willing to risk the longevity of the industry for “personal satisfaction”; at least not during an active session. To us, having the “stones” means knowing the most appropriate times to use them and when not to.

Politics is not a short game. It is a long strategic game of chess that takes weeks…months. This legislative session, we worked MANY angles behind the scenes to ensure a win which most generally do not see and you’ll rarely hear us talk about. We not only have our lobbyists we work extremely closely with during the session but other allies and supporters we don’t discuss in public as it would damage our strategy. In all this year, we worked closely with 3 other lobbyists, 4 national organizations and a few inside ‘spies’ in the capitol who were in our corner fighting for us. These are relationships that took years to develop and ones that would not have occurred if we always took an attack posture with anyone that tries to pass legislation against our industry. Good politics is not about winning or losing, it’s about finding the most suitable middle ground that all parties can live with.

On to the best part – gratitude. First off, we can’t say “thanks” enough to our lobbyists Andrew & Charlie. These guys put up with LOTS of flack from the legislators because of decisions we make and directions we take; sometimes that change on a whim. Every action we take on our side, angers some at the capitol and these guys bear almost 100% of the criticism and do it with the utmost professionalism and calm attitude. They are in our corner fighting 365 days of the year and are constantly working to improve our industry’s image to the elected leaders. Without these guys up there, this summary would be a very different one this year. They earn every penny of their fees and without solid membership in the organization, we couldn’t fight the bills in the way needed to ensure victory.

Next, we want to thank everyone who took the time to attend the various hearings this year, send emails and make phone calls. Not only did quite a few within the vaping community show up to be seen and heard, but we had our business owners. LOTS of business owners. In fact, we had more business owners participate in the session this year than any year prior. Most of the businesses closed for half the day during the HB333 hearing so all their employees could participate (a first!). We had great testimony this year from not only the UTSFA but from SFATA and VaporLoc owner Brad Parsons who brought one of his many books containing personal success stories from his customers. I (Aaron) personally would also like to thank our President Tad Jensen for agreeing to testify while I was down with the flu during the final days of the session. Testifying in front of a committee on a critical bill is never easy and he accepted the challenge with the utmost desire to protect our entire community.

We want to thank Paul Blair with Americans for Tax Reform and Jeff Stier with the National Center for Public Policy. Jeff took precious time out of his ski vacation in Park City to spend with us at the Capitol helping us convey our message of #ABillionLives and #IVapeIVote. Paul happened to be in town fighting another bill and took the time out of those discussions to help us on HB333 specifically. Lastly, we made new connections with Americans for Prosperity who agreed with us that taxation on the industry is bad and used their resources to help in the fight as well. These groups all believed in our position so much, we didn’t have to spend extra funds to hire external lobbying resources as we had planned for.

We had CASAA working hard to keep our Utah CASAA members and those around the globe informed of our fight. Fist bumps and hugs to Alex and Julie for spending time during what ended up being a heavy travel period for their organization to keep the CTAs updated and accurate. We worked closely with Libertas Utah who support our industry goals and worked hard on their side to keep these bills from gaining added support.

We also had more media attention from around the world on the bills from outlets we never would have thought of. It’s apparent that the fight for vaping is catching the attention of journalists around the world and they all appear to be awakened at the dishonesty of taxing ex-smokers.

So with that, thank you. Thanks to every vaper in Utah and around the world. Thanks to every business owner who fought to save your business. Thanks to our advocacy friends from around the country who believe in the Utah community enough to help fend off the attacks. Thanks to our elected leaders at the capitol such as Senator Mark Madsen and Senator Jim Dabakis who saw through the lies and smoke and continue to support our efforts. And thanks to each of you for continuing to have trust in the Utah Smoke Free Association to keep vaping legal and available to the adults in the state.

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HB333 Call to Action – Hearing

This Call to Action has ended – thank you to everyone that made your voice heard!

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 a crippling 86.5% tax on our industry.
 

HB333 will be heard in the House Revenue & Taxation committee on Thursday March 3rd at 08:00 in room 445 of the main capitol building. We ask EVERY industry business owner to close and be at the meeting on Thursday morning until the hearing has concluded (plan on through noon). We ask for all employees of shops be present and every consumer to join in. 
 

They likely will only give time for 2 or 3 people from our side to speak (probably 2 minutes each) so a showing of numbers is more powerful in this case than your voice. If they allow a single short statement from each of you, the most they will allow is your name and if you are for or against the bill.

 

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

 

As a matter of priority TODAY, 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
  • Remind them that the regulations from last year’s session have not even taken effect yet and the sponsor wishes to place an even tighter stranglehold on the industry.
  • Nicotine is no more a tobacco product than milk is a beef product.
  • 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 on the phone. If you attend the hearing, do NOT show up in torn up jeans, t-shirts, hoodies, etc. You are in a highly respectful location so dress your best (think weddings, funerals and church). 

 

House Revenue & Taxation Standing Committee

Read the rest of this page »

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UTSFA fights for the industry


Utah is now just 4 weeks away from the start of the Utah legislative session. During this session, we have been advised that we will be fighting taxation of the industry yet again. This will be the 3rd attempt at taxation and there is a growing trend of industry taxation across our great country thus we anticipate a deep battle again. We also anticipate an additional regulatory bill aimed at deepening the regulations of the industry in the state.

Just over a year ago, we reformed our organization into a 501(c)4 non-profit, hired 2 lobbyists and therefore financially depend on our existing membership base, new members and a growing list of sponsors to fund our lobbying efforts. Taxation and over-regulation risks negatively impacting sales of all vapor & e-liquid products throughout the state; of which many companies have a market share of.

 

The UTSFA is a 100% volunteer organization and do not allow payments to any member of our leadership team. All funds collected, go directly to our state lobbying efforts and the miscellaneous costs to remain operational so we can support the statewide industry. We have membership options available for Distributors, Retailers, E-liquid Manufacturers, and hardware manufacturers. In addition, we also have sponsorship opportunities for non-industry supporters and non-Utah manufacturers with a vested interest in the Utah vapor market. Sponsorships start at $500 and can be organized as a single donation, as a quarterly payment or set up annually to align with your interests and accounting.

 

We are asking all Utah businesses in the vapor industry to give back to the nonprofits that are fighting for you and your customers. 2016 will be a defining year in the vapor industry and simply writing letters, sending tweets and appearing at hearings unfortunately cannot fund critical lobbying efforts. The UTSFA like many other vapor industry associations need your support to continue pushing back against new and punitive taxes and regulatory measures from “public health” organizations.  Please take the necessary steps to help us fight for your longevity in the industry and join as a member or sponsor.

 

To express interest in joining as a member or sponsoring the Utah Smoke Free Association, we ask that you please fill out this form and a member of our board will contact you soon.

Sponsor_Button

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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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