By SHAWN McCARTHY
As most vapers (should) know, the FDA has expanded its tobacco regulatory authority to the vaping industry, with the changes taking effect on August 8, 2016. There are other stories covering the nuts and bolts of the proposed regulations (and if you have not educated yourself, please do so.) Suffice it to say that these rules, short of legal or legislative action, will start a two year clock that will expire in August 2018 with the end of vaping as we know it.
Several groups have been working toward the goal of changing these regulations through legal or legislative channels. In May 2016, these groups – who collectively represent the best chance to save vaping – formalized their coalition.
The groups involved should be known to every vaper. They are the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association (CASAA), the American Vaping Association (AVA), the American E-Liquid Manufacturing Standards Association (AEMSA), the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA) and Not Blowing Smoke (NBS).
CASAA is a consumer advocacy group focused on tobacco harm reduction. AEMSA and SFATA are trade organizations which drive self-regulation through member commitment to certain quality and safety standards.
NBS focuses on countering misinformation in unscientific or biased studies, dishonest press releases and statements from anti-vaping politicians.
The AVA is an advocacy group for small and medium-sized businesses in the vaping industry. Gregory Conley, the President of the AVA, calls the end of that two-year clock “Vaping Prohibition.”
A former legislative director for CASAA, Conley founded the AVA in 2014. He is one of the more prominent advocates who dedicate their lives to speaking on behalf of vapers; telling our stories, clearing up misconceptions, countering misinformation and seeking solutions to the pending prohibition.
Regarding those solutions, there are a number of legal challenges at the federal and local level on behalf of vapers, but the best chance to save vaping appears to be legislative. There are two main legislative initiatives being pursued by vaping advocates at this time.
One of these initiatives is House Resolution 2058 which is a focused bill that simply changes the predicate date for the pending regulations to be the same as the deeming date: August 8, 2016 instead of the proposed predicate date of 2007, which allows vaping products currently on the market to remain on the market without the labor and expense of filing a pre-market tobacco application – a process which could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per product.
This resolution has over 60 co-sponsors but until recently that support was exclusively republican.
“We are pleased to announce our first democratic co-sponsor to HR2058,” Conley said in an interview with VAPE Magazine, “hopefully this opens the door for additional democratic support.” Minnesota Representative Collin Peterson was the pioneer who crossed the line to officially make HR2058 a bipartisan resolution.
Julie Woessner, president of CASAA and long-time vaping advocate, does not believe that this should be a partisan issue.
“This represents a private-sector solution to a public health problem, which should make republicans happy,” Woessner told VAPE Magazine. “But it also represents harm reduction, which is what democrats say they want.”
The other initiative being focused on by the coalition is the Cole-Bishop Amendment to the Agricultural Appropriations bill, and it also has bipartisan support. The amendment, which was offered by Republican Tom Cole and Democrat Sanford Bishop, was added to the Appropriations bill in April.
Cole-Bishop changes the predicate date like HR2058 but it also contains some restrictions, calling for battery regulations, new package labeling requirements and restriction of print marketing to publications designed for adults.
This amendment probably represents vapers’ best chance at saving vaping from prohibition. Compared to HR2058, Conley said, “I am most confident in the Cole-Bishop amendment because it is in the agricultural appropriations bill and that has to be voted on later this year.”
While changing the predicate date is the most critical battle in front of the coalition – and all vapers – at the moment, winning that battle does not mean the war is over.
According to Woessner, the predicate date fight is a ‘critical step, but not a long term solution.”
Even with the predicate date change, “vaping would still be regulated by the tobacco control act, which is not what the act was intended for,” Woessner explained. “The long-term goal should be a framework for regulating (vaping products) in a way that makes sense.”
Short term or not, the fight is well underway. To avoid ‘vaping prohibition’ every vaping consumer, producer and retailer needs to be engaged.
Conley suggest that vapers, “Join CASAA, promote August8th.org, call your elected officials, write letters, check with your local vape shops and encourage their activism…”
He stressed the importance of face-to-face advocacy if possible, saying vapers should, “motivate your fellow vapers, go to town hall meetings, and encourage (vape shops) to seek meetings with their elected officials.”
Get involved, get your fellow vapers involved and get your vape shops involved.
“Now more than ever it is important that everyone in and around this industry get serious about saving it.” – Greg Conley, President, American Vaping Association.
For more information, please see the following websites:
http://casaa.org – Join CASAA (for free), stay up to date on local calls-to action, find your elected officials, see their votes and statements on vaping matters and send them emails, get free printed advocacy material and buy CASAA apparel items.
http://sfata.org – Industry folks can join local chapters, find meetings to attend and stay up to date on current related events.
http://www.aemsa.org – Read the manufacturing standards, see a list of members and get links to research.
http://vaping.info – Find out more about the AVA, check recent news, read recent press releases and read vaper testimonials, as well as get links to related blogs and forums.
http://notblowingsmoke.org – Get the truth behind studies and press releases, educate yourself of the science and health benefits of vaping.