Over the weekend, I took a little trip to Washington, D.C. to exercise my first amendment rights with a few friends. It’s kind of a thing, speaking my mind. Knock, knock, Mr. President.
On Friday, while I traveled to D.C., President Trump stated they’d be coming out with a “very important position on vaping” and mentioned raising the age to “21 or so”, as reported here. I saw that on the eve of what would be, in my mind, a historic showing of consumers the following afternoon. On September 11th, he’d already stated bans were coming.
It didn’t matter what I heard. The Office of Management and Budget had already cancelled appointments the week before. None of that mattered, we were already knocking on
his WE, The People’s door. We were prepared to make a unified statement about our CHOICE for less harmful products remaining available.
Many had already arrived, more were on the way, and you could feel the passion.
They said it couldn’t be done
Humor me: If you’d told me I was going to be in D.C. – at the White House – because I stopped smoking….. well – here I was with what I hoped to be thousands of others. Why? Because we’re adults. Because we’re consumers. And small businesses. And we’re all frustrated and angry.
We were in our nation’s capital – to have our voices heard, to exercise our rights and responsibility: “The right to freedom of association is recognized as a human right, a political right and a civil liberty” as so many had done before us.
We’ve listened to PHINO’s (Public Health In Name Only) lie. They’ve altered presentations. We’ve watched them conduct themselves with bias, without accountability, interpreting, manipulating, and misrepresenting “dangers” and hyperinflated youth data.
We’ve been completely dismissed… ignored. Preempted, with hostility. Talked down to. Talked over. Not included in the conversation. We’ve been lied to in court hearings, lied about in the press. Small businesses (and consumers) have been accused of “marketing to children“.
…despite the fact that there are plenty of examples of reasonable regulatory steps, “trusted public health experts” and non-governmental organizations quietly sit with mouths clamped shut, standing with hands open,
choosing demanding (and hiding cowardly behind) Master Settlement Agreement funding, instead of putting forth effort by making an already less harmful choice for the world – better.
THOSE people hide behind the illusion of “helping”.
I’d heard “we should go to Washington” so many times, I didn’t care if there were 9 people or 90, or 900, or 9,000.
…we’ve watched politicians demanding (and recently invoking) bans for anything but cigarettes. We’ve watched
media vultures – gnawing on every buzzword like “deaths” of unrelated, illegal products – to bring it all full circle… to regulate, restrict, tax & ban any and all forms of less harmful products, and flavors.
So yeah, I was excitedly in our nation’s capital… with a growing crowd of pissed off people fighting peacefully for freedom of choice against the threat of BANS of less harmful adult flavored products for everyone across the country, and quite possibly the world. If they could get away with this, what other abuse of power and criminal acts can non-governmental organizations and “public health ‘experts” get away with? Knock, knock, Mr. President.
If you build it, they will come
While it may not have looked difficult for this to have been accomplished, preparations and logistics HAD to be handled. This was White House property. There was National Park Service & Secret Service to coordinate EVERYTHING with. There were all volunteer marshals for safety & logistics – and it couldn’t have been done without them in place.
The United Vapers Alliance planned & coordinated anything and everything that could have been thought of (<-video). This was not just pulling into the park with the family and having a picnic. This was the nation’s capital. Anyone or everyone “could” have been removed at any time by the National Park Service or Secret Service at their discretion – for the slightest infraction.
There were rules for everyone to follow & abide by. Restrooms were at least a ten-minute walk away. A first aid station. Assigned people for talking to the media. There were to be no bags left unattended. Permits to be obtained. We wanted to be HEARD, so stage and sound had to be rented and set up. Signs were ordered. Radios were needed. The coordination and the flow of speakers… cleanup… and leaving the park just the way we’d found it.
All we were waiting on were YOU, the people. We knew they were coming from Alaska, Georgia, Tennessee… New York… Ohio… Florida… and they were coming by the busload… some were already in the park and coordinating the days event.
Wait… Secret Service said we had to vacate the area, (we knew it could happen) because President Trump was flying out. When the Secret Service says move, you MOVE. Most went across the street to the Washington Monument.
While almost everyone waited across the street, the President flew directly OVERHEAD… so he SAW us… He must have thought – that many people must be serious if they’re willing to travel, stay, congregate, and assemble peacefully as WE, the PEOPLE, in Washington, D.C. on a cold Saturday afternoon.
“History is full of disapproval of or objection to something “someone else” didn’t like.” ~ Me.
President Trump was gone, but We, The PEOPLE, were NOT.
The Secret Service were extremely kind and held traffic for
us WE, The PEOPLE to get back across Constitution Ave. Here we are streaming back into the park after the flyover.
YOU, the people, came.
We came to speak our collective minds. We were #LOUDER. (Thanks, Sherwin!) We are, and have been tired of being lied to, lied about, and ignored.
Speakers spoke. The crowd listened. “We Vape, We Vote“.
How many were in the crowd? I don’t know the total number in attendance at this historic event, but I know I missed finding and meeting some of you. That’s how many came. So, speculation of numbers? More than 9, more than 90, and more than 900. Hats, hoodies & sunglasses disguised (us) some of you – but I found a few… gratefully, a few, like Amanda Wheeler, found me!
I wandered around – surfing the crowd –like a bot– listening to the speakers. Taking photos, taking the moment in – still dumbfounded I was standing in eyesight of the WHITE HOUSE with thousands of others who had simply quit smoking, having to FIGHT for our rights to flavors because we didn’t quit smoking the way “they” wanted us to.
Rolling Stone was there. HUH!
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I said to myself and others about 5,000 times Saturday: “Holy shit, I’m in front of the White House. It’s about F’n TIME”. And just like that, harm reduction-this cause, is national news…
Whether you came or not, if you read this blog, YOU had a place here in Washington, D.C. on November 9th. YOUR consumer voice was represented. If you weren’t there, you were tweeting and flooding the switchboards (ring, ring, Mr. President) with calls to the White House.
“We vape, we vote”.
What was the message? The message was “to educate the public and politicians regarding the benefits of harm reduction via vapor products, and will strongly convey that changes must be made, within the FDA, to provide an economically feasible pathway to market.” (Source) including FLAVORS.
Here’s 28 seconds of Gregory Conley explaining:
Here’s Alex Clark explaining:
You may ask – was this necessary?
After all, President Trump had already left for a football game. Was he listening? Did he care? I’ll answer: YES. Period.
Was this rally important?
- Was it #LOUDER? YES.
- Did it make an impact? YES
- Was the timing right? I’ll get to that.
- Did this rally change the conversation? YES.
- Do I think we got our collective message across? Hell yes.
- Was explaining how our voting power in swing states could change an election? Yep.
- Was the effort and collaboration of consumers showing their faces in D.C. worth it? Hell yes.
Was it “worth it” to get national press, and for our President, the leader of the free world, explaining on Veteran’s Day, that he’d be meeting to come up with an acceptable solution in less than 48 hours after the event?
Pay attention to CASAA’s words: “...the MAIN STAKEHOLDERS in this issue are the millions of voting CONSUMERS who rely on these products.”
By any means, this isn’t over. This fight has just begun.
Consumers need small businesses, and small businesses need organizations who represent them all – to have their collective voices heard.
Two months after announcing his administration would “clear the market”- to the day, he decided he will “be meeting with representatives of the Vaping industry”.
Did this rally give pressure to change the President’s MIND or give pause to his decisions concerning our freedoms? I certainly hope so.
The world was watching.
No one had done this before.
Will this event be analyzed or criticized? Possibly, yes.
Without question, We conducted ourselves in a civilized manner – and had some of the loudest voices in the nation representing you, the people, in a civilized manner.
I have hope that if you were unable to attend this event, you tweeted, called the White House, and saw that if it can be done in Washington, D.C., it can be done anywhere in the country.
I hope it inspires and motivates you to DO that very same thing in your area, and to show up at city and state hearings. I hope it inspires you to be #louder.
I’d like to thank ALL donors, speakers, organizations, and importantly, the marshals and all the attendees for showing up to help make this event HAPPEN. I’d like to thank the Secret Service and National Park Service staff for guidance and information crucial to having a successful event.
I thank consumers and small businesses who couldn’t make it, but called the White House, and tweeted, and write their representatives, and continue to keep awareness up all the time.
I thank Sherwin Mena, Tristan Thompson, Matthew Salter, Tammy Michaud, Matthew Elliott, Allen Davis, Cory Amedio, and Matt Culley for allowing me to join them in what was a pivotal and historic moment and effort for this community and cause I love dearly. Fighting for themselves, each other, you, small businesses, and future smokers who have the RIGHT to choose to switch to a less harmful alternative, with flavors of their choice…
Mike Peterson chats with Sherwin Mena, Nick Orlando, and James Jarvis about the rally here.
Jim McDonald just released his article about the rally over at Vaping 360, you can read it HERE.
On a personal note – I reflected quietly – with my mind racing on the drive home… about the awe-inspiring experience, realizing I’d been a part of history. I was VERY proud of us.
In hindsight, I have just one regret for November 9th… I didn’t think to call the White House to oppose a flavor ban between speakers, and invite the President to come visit us from the stage myself… of course, he’d already left for a football game.
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