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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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VTA Consumer Call to Action

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Calling all Consumers of Vapor Products

GET INVOLVED AND SAVE THE VAPOR INDUSTRY!

Calling all consumers of vapor products across the country! The Vapor Technology Association (VTA) is hard at work in the nation’s capital promoting responsible public policies like the Cole-Bishop Amendment that will save the entire vapor industry and will preserve your ability to access and continue to use quality vapor products. We have made a lot of progress, but now we need YOUR help! If we are going to be successful, we must show our elected leaders in Washington exactly who you are. You are the consumers who rely on vapor products, and you need to make your voices heard!

#WEAREVAPOR

FOLLOW THESE 3 EASY STEPS TO MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD

  1. TAKE A PHOTO! Take a photo in front of your local vape shop(s), with your friends, or just yourself!
  2. TAG YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS! Go to http://cqrcengage.com/vaportechnology/federal and enter your address in the “Find Your Elected Officials” box. Then, click and scroll down to find your Representative and your 2 Senators. Write down their Twitter and Facebook handles so you can tag them in separate posts.
  3. POST YOUR PHOTO WITH A MESSAGE! Post your photo to Twitter and Facebook using #WeAreVapor and #SupportColeBishop with one of the simple messages below and tag your representative.

Please use one of the suggested messages below so our message is consistent. For Twitter, choose one of these suggested Tweets:

  • @[REPRESENTATIVE] Vaping saved me. Now we need you to #SupportColeBishop and save vapor in our state! #WeAreVapor [INSERT PHOTO]
  • Together #WeAreVapor! @[REPRESENTATIVE], vaping saved me. #SupportColeBishop and preserve my choice to vape. [INSERT PHOTO]

For Facebook, use this suggested post:

  • We are consumers, employees, and supporters of small businesses in our state. Together, #WeAreVapor!
  • @[REPRESENTATIVE] Vaping saved me. Now we need you to #SupportColeBishop and save vapor in our state. [INSERT PHOTO]

This is important – Use both these hashtags: #WeAreVapor #SupportColeBishop

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UTSFA in Washington DC

utsfa_capitol

Last week, 9 representatives from the Utah Smoke Free Association Board and our membership attended the first Vapor Technology Association Conference in Washington D.C.  It was an amazing experience and I would encourage everyone to take part in it if the opportunity comes around again. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the VTA, they have been around about 8 months and have been involved in the industry for a few years now but officially became an association in fall of 2015. Tony Abboud, President of the Vapor Technology Association is a highly accomplished Government Relations Specialist, Lawyer and Lobbyist and it showed all week.

Tony Abboud kicked off the conference with Stacy Ehrlich following Tony’s introduction. Stacy is a partner at Kleinfeld, Kaplan and Becker LLP. She has also worked closely with the FDA in the regulation of tobacco products since early in the legislative process of the Family Smoking Control Act. Azim Chowdhury from Keller and Heckman followed Stacy with his take on the FDA regulations and what it will take for Retailers and Manufactures to comply with each individual deadline in the Deeming Rule. Next up on the Speaker list on Tuesday was Seth Mailhot, a Partner at Michael Best & Friedrich LLP. Mr. Mailhot worked for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from 1994 to 2006 in positions ranging from researcher, engineer, investigator and compliance officer. Following Seth Mailhot, a Lawyer named Marc J. Scheineson spoke in further detail about the Deeming Rule and his experiences with the FDA.

The Deeming Rule is going to affect this industry in a way that is nerve-racking to even anticipate but its important to recognize a few things. The amount of paperwork, studies and costs involved in PMTA’s are far from achievable for much of the industry. That being said, there are still things we can do. Supporting HR2058 and the Cole-Bishop Amendment is key. Both bills are now bi-partisan and making some great traction.

Tuesday evening we attended a surprise evening event across from the Capitol for a private screening of A Billion Lives presented by Aaron Biebert himself. Several staff members of various Senators across the nation attended and from what we heard, they received the information well.

utsfa_handcheckOn Wednesday June 8th, 2016 we began the day with a speech from Ashley Davis of West Front Strategies. Ashley is part of the lobbying team for the VTA and orchestrated the meetings on Capitol Hill with each of our State Senators and their staff. We individually met with the staff of Senators Mike Lee, Orrin Hatch, and Rob Bishop. In addition to asking for each of their support on the Cole-Bishop Amendment, we took the opportunity to educate our Senators about the products we use and the technology that has the opportunity to save 480,000 lives a year. Most were very receptive, interested in what we had to say and seemed like they wanted to help. We finished the day with a meeting with Mia Love and her staff. Her staff was the most engaged by far, took down several pages of notes and couldn’t hear enough from us. Once Senator Love came out of her office, it was nothing short of amazing. She offered her support of the Cole-Bishop Amendment and also made clear that once the Amendment in the Agricultural Bill is actually submitted as it’s own bill, she will support that as well! Senator Love is anti regulatory laws and committed to do whatever she can to help us out to save the industry and the jobs our industry provides.

UTSFA_MiaL

All in all, it was a very successful trip and we were able to educate individuals that know virtually nothing about our industry. If you haven’t sent your story to your Senators and Representatives, I would encourage you to do so as soon as possible. The standard assumption is that your voice may not be heard and your time wasted. I can promise you after the last few weeks, more State officials are becoming very interested in this matter and more then willing to listen. We have made some great progress as of late but the fight is far from over. If you have any further questions about what was discussed at the Conference, please contact Grant Hiller, Eddie Mock or Darrel Schildknecht for more info. Thanks for everything each of you are doing to keep this industry alive. Have a great day and we look forward to seeing you soon.

~Grant Hiller, Industry Director

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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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What have we done?


wifm

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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