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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 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

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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

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