By Alex Clark
Most state legislatures have been in session for over a month now. In that short period of time, CASAA has identified multiple legislative threats to vaping and issued over 30 calls to action. Typically, the response rate to our calls to action is noticeably higher than some organizations see with other issues. Certainly this speaks to the passion that consumers have for vapor products and the level to which we are willing to be engaged. However, despite all of the opportunities that consumers have to be involved, some people are still hungry for more ways to participate.
CASAA has attended several events already in 2016, and at each one, we were approached by people that want to know what more they can do; they simply aren’t satisfied with firing off an email or making a phone call to a lawmaker. The good news is there are absolutely more ways to get involved.
First, Register To Vote! There are an estimated ten million vapor consumers in the United States (at the time of this writing, CASAA is close to counting 134,000 of them as members). Although most of the vapor consumers in the US are people that purchase or have purchased the cig-a-like or basic “ego” style devices from a C-store or gas station, there are still millions of consumers that purchase and use advanced devices from small specialty shops. Just imagine the voting power we would have if just that group of advanced users were registered to vote and actually voted. Yes, we are talking about determining the outcome of a federal election. Moreover, when you communicate with lawmakers, it is vitally important that you mention that you are a voter in their district. While it’s true that good ideas and passionate policy discussion come from nonvoters to a lawmaker, the prospects of losing or gaining a vote in the next election carries more weight.
Second, when you make a call or send written communications to lawmakers, it is a great idea to take that opportunity to request an in-person meeting. It may take a while to set up the meeting and you may only end up speaking with a staff member, but any inperson meeting with a lawmaker or their staff sends a powerful message that you are serious about this issue. Once you’ve scheduled your meeting, take a moment to reach out to any of the organizations that have been doing this for a while. Someone there will be more than happy to share their experience and help prepare you for your meeting.
Third, the aforementioned 10 million vapor consumers in the US need to know how to get involved. Maybe more importantly, they need to know that they should get involved. There are still hundreds of vapor retailers that don’t know about the regulatory threats to their businesses. Unfortunately, their customers are likely in the dark as well. As consumers, you have the power to influence retailers with your spending habits. Shop in stores that promote awareness and advocacy. If you are limited to just one or a few shops and they seem unaware of the issues, take a moment to recommend some materials they can post in their store. CASAA has things that can be downloaded and printed out for free (bit.ly/casaamaterials). You can also find flyers that are tailored to specific states or issues here: bit.ly/casaaflyers.
Finally, sharing calls to action and other bits of information is vitally important to getting the word out and are often overlooked as ways to get more involved. Some may naturally assume that information coming from a large organization is seen by many more people\ than one person can hope to reach. Unfortunately, this is not the case. I’ll refer back to the 9.8 million vapor consumers in the US that are seemingly unaware of the threats to their access to vapor products. The reality is that you have social and business networks that advocacy organizations are unable to reach on their own. Manufacturers and online retailers, especially, have large email lists that consist of vendors and consumers alike. While CASAA can send out one alert here and there to specific audiences, our message tends to get buried in all of the other exciting stuff happening in the vapor universe. It is vital that everyone who interacts with these products sees multiple reminders to take action or to generally be aware of the issues.
It may seem like “doing more” requires some kind of heroic effort. However, it’s the little things that add up and can have a significant impact. Rather than strive for grand gestures intended to jump start a revolution, consistent and simple actions are what sustain a movement.
Alex Clark, CASAA Legislative Coordinator