President Trump asked to have a conversation with public health and vaping industry organizations. The purpose of the meeting was to get “representatives of the Vaping industry, together with medical professionals and individual state representatives” to “come up with an acceptable solution to the Vaping and E-cigarette dilemma. Children’s health & safety, together with jobs, will be a focus!”, according to his tweet.
If the President invited me to sit face to face with him along side of those who may not agree with science and data I’d be explaining, I’d certainly read the invite and be prepared to… Well, I’d take reasonable steps above and beyond to accommodate – by offering an acceptable, comprehensive solution he was asking for.
Now, remember, dear reader – he specifically said “come up with an acceptable solution” in his purpose, so there may be a test.
For public health, seasoned representatives were there, some with 30 or more years in their position. They need less than two sentences of attention from me, and <—these were it.
Also included in the meeting were were Mitt Romney, Joe Grogan, Kelly Ann Conway, Health and Human Services (allegedly unbias and science-based) Secretary Azar among others.
The other side (with the exception of Juul) representing mostly small businesses (who represent consumers) were also seasoned representatives. Scott Eley, Gregory Conley, Tony Abboud, Reynolds, Njoy, at least one rep for convenience stores, and Americans for Tax Reform.
The President didn’t wast time. He was inquisitive with everyone, asking for, but not always listening to solutions as a response to his questions. Public health group responses to his questions were the same, with variations, referring to his decision from September 11th to ban all flavors except tobacco. The other group, except for one, contributed to the conversation with solutions.
Freedom of choice for millions of ex-smokers and the ability to navigate that right with flavors were the literal discussion in the White House. The conversation just changed for access to less harmful alternatives on a national scale.
Until now, we have NEVER had a seat in front of the President of the United States. WOW. I don’t think he knew (we, the people) less harmful alternatives existed until he flew over us on November 9th of this year.
WE the people exposed “Public Health” by applying both social and political pressure and offering solutions “they” could not come up with
With more than a decade of use by consumers, science and data (links to that are all over this blog), a decade of advocacy groundwork had also been laid long before I came along in 2014.
- Summer- 2019: Unscrupulous “health” organizations took an opportunity to falsely blame illness and deaths on legal vaping products. In fact, “samples from 29 patients with “EVALI submitted to CDC from 10 states found vitamin E acetate in all of the samples.” Vitamin E acetate was used in THC-containing products. (Link to source)
- September 9th: The First Lady (Flotus) tweeted concern of an “epidemic of e-cigarette use in our children”.
- September 10th: In the early morning (6:54 AM) hours, gazillionaire Bloomberg announced he was spending $160M on an initiative with Tobacco-Free Kids to ban flavored e-cigarettes
- September 10th: Later that day, Flotus tweeted a Washington Post article at 12:03 P.M. (Yes I noticed the times on Bloomberg and Flotus’s tweets)
- September 11th: Secretary Azar announces he will be “finalizing policies that will clear flavored e-cigarettes from the market.”
- September 13th: President Trump tweeted: “While I like the Vaping alternative to Cigarettes, we need to make sure this alternative is SAFE for ALL! Let’s get counterfeits off the market, and keep young children from Vaping!”
- September 18th: small businesses of Vapor Technology Association went to Washington, D.C. with solutions in hand to representatives.
- September 18th: Paul Blair explained voters are clearly an issue for the President.
Frustrated consumers & business owners already tweeting and calling the White House in opposition of a flavor ban, and these efforts became more intense.
- November 1st, Trump announced the ban of flavors the following week.
- November 4th, “White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) canceled all remaining meetings with stakeholders” as Jim McDonald reported here, and Dimitris Agrafiotis tweeted here.
- Saturday – November 9th – two months after the First Lady tweeted her first concerns, WE, chose to exercise our freedom of assembly in our nation’s capital. We, the people didn’t just go to Washington, D.C., we were standing in our own yard.
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- November 11th:
TWO days after the rally. Coincidence? I think not.
NO one could have predicted this. Bright and early on November 11th, at 9:00 AM, we knew were being listened to.
I’m poaching Schell Hammel’s words: This was a defining moment.
The President of the United States tweeted:
“Will be meeting with representatives of the Vaping industry, together with medical professionals and individual state representatives, to come up with an acceptable solution to the Vaping and E-cigarette dilemma. Children’s health & safety, together with jobs, will be a focus!”
I don’t think anyone “knew” who was going.
Finally, on November 22nd, President Trump met with various invited groups and gave them an opportunity, *asking* for solutions.
While you and I can agree or disagree with finer points and details of the conversation, representatives invited from the vaping industry (except for Juul), did offer solutions. After all, we were having a conversation with the President. I had -0- concerns for who kept their composure in the face to face with those trying to take our freedoms away, and those offering solutions for me in front of President Trump.
These people were fighting most importantly, for millions of former smokers and future smokers who have the human right to CHOOSE the option of flavors and the right to less harmful products. They were also fighting for thousands of small businesses, thousands more of their employees, customers (you and me), and more employed in various ancillary functions.
WE WERE CHANGING THE CONVERSATION INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE.
We were offering SOLUTIONS inside the WHITE HOUSE.
Sorry I yelled. No I’m not.
This was a defining moment.
The eyes of the world were upon us. Again. Here are key personal takeaways from this historical meeting:
Thirteen days after the vaping community and the world watched the Washington, D.C. rally on November 9th, the whole world waited in anticipation to see this meeting unfold.
President Trump wasn’t operating in a bubble. He was concerned, he was engaging. For a change, we weren’t in facing a one-sided wall of resistance. The media couldn’t report it the way they wanted to. No press could spin or invert the narrative of one side. We all witnessed the same exchanges.
We were not being told we only had three minutes. Instead, we publicly voiced concerns and were offering solutions with an opportunity that has been actively fought for years – represented in the highest office in the land.
- WE were well-prepared with answers.
- We were articulate with safety and standards
- We were armed with data, science, and solutions.
Public health (“they”) didn’t present answers. They presented the same narrative – that children are breaking laws, and proposed absolute bans.
Trump DID ask great questions. He was attentive, and at times, curious. At one point he asked:
“If we take out flavors, won’t they just be made illegally?”
Tony Abboud “this is the new vapor industry, not the old tobacco industry”.
It was CLEAR Trump understood THC deaths and illnesses ARE a separate issue.
Like it (I don’t) or not, “Tobacco 21” looks like it will be law of land – eventually. Trump leaned in and it said, “we need to do that”.
He did NOT like the idea of a ban with valid fears of a black market – and kids doing what kids may do. He understood while kids are an issue, adults are an issue. He asked very specific questions – he asked from a business point of view.
Sadly he had Mitt (Philip Morris history link) Romney squawking like an injured crow at his side.
Because President Trump didn’t like a black market, he also quickly realized the “public health” representatives were parroting his words and did not have a solution.
Importantly, President Trump asked questions about less harm. Gregory Conley explained it to him.
President Trump reiterates his understanding by giving Tony Abboud a chance to speak.
He understood flavors.
He was looking for and likes to know about:
Job numbers. Employment.
He understands math and votes.
Now, he also understands adult access.
Trump understands safety. Secretary Azar mentions “health claims” at the end – and lies, stating there is “no evidence” (Yes there is – Gottlieb spoke about this, so has Azar) (there is plenty) and they will go after companies who make those claims.
They showed they are idealistically and morally bankrupt.
“THEY” couldn’t CONTROL the conversation
While political clout got them there, the power and prestige they are normally are accustomed to was meaningless to President Trump.
Trump seemed painfully aware of the body parts groups focusing on the children
This time there was no controlled environment – no national stage to speak and walk away from. It wasn’t just their narrative. They were – for the first time in history-not in charge or control of the conversation.
See, the thing about the industry representatives is – they were listening. They were interacting with the President. Those allegedly representing “public health“, political front group NGOs were not listening. They simply waited to reply to him. If data, science, or less harmful alternatives was mentioned – they tried to drown it out by repeating various angles of their nursery rhyme – “Think of the children”
By the reaction and follow up questions by President Trump, it seemed he was well aware of their tactics. It seemed each time he asked any of the “
health” body parts groups for a solution, he received the same scripted answers and reactions (in no particular order):
- Ban it – but don’t ban it
- Mention unrelated dangers carefully
- Use the ever-popular Think of the children
- Mention “nicotine is addictive” whenever possible
- Stroke his ego – Remind him of his 9/11 statement
- If smokers and less harmful alternatives are brought up: “Everyone talk at once“!
- Drown out and talk over anything to do with harm reduction, data, science, law, or jobs
Adhering to and referring Trump to his original plan of bans made them look arrogant and unprepared. He already changed his mind once. By using that strategy – in my opinion – it showed their only motive and insulted his intelligence. We all know who they are.
In fact, as I watched – “their” strategy, I couldn’t help thinking their approach was narrowly thought out. After all the years of doing what they do, they never had and didn’t prepare, a concrete solution. Confident in advance, they didn’t think it was necessary for any solution but their own. They didn’t need – forgive me for the gratuitous pun – an alternative solution. What exactly is it they “do” again? They don’t have answers.
We were prepared, articulate, and brought multiple solutions to the table.
I don’t recall political front groups mentioning or demanding cigarettes come off the market immediately.
We all know we got exactly what we expected from the body parts groups. That doesn’t matter. The focus on harm reduction, of insane policies being proposed, the exact same concern for children as the front groups have, and the importance of flavors became clearer to President Trump – as long as we were heard over their incessant chanting.
So what will come of this meeting?
In no particular order:
Did the stance of the one-sided morality crusade persuade President Trump once he heard both sides?
Did we raise and a much larger concern in his mind for public health, freedom of individual choices for less harmful products, and is there hope for the process of democracy in our county?
- This is NOT over
- Taxes are still on the table
- How can we be more effective?
- Can we build MORE momentum?
- CAN industry change the PMTA before May?
- Will there be more meetings with consumers?
- Will there be MORE progress after this session?
- Can there be change in restrictive local/state regulations?
- Are we able to say we’ve changed the conversation nationally?
- Will this change the course of the industry and harm reduction?
- Will the alleged “health” groups stop denying science and data?
I hope I don’t miss anyone participating in this meeting, but I want to thank (in no particular order):
Every single one of you, who called the White House, tweeted, hash-tagged, made some noise… (and will continue to do so!), and all who have come before us, to advocate for less harmful choices to smoking.
Ryan Nivakoff from Njoy.
Mr. Fragnito of Reynolds.
Tony Abboud from the Vapor Technology Association (VTA).
I believe the person representing convenience stores was Mr. Armour (couldn’t find an official title).
For some reason, Jerry decided to tweet his sentiment about the meeting, so I had to troll him.
While we can all armchair quarterback and “would’ve / could’ve” this meeting until the cows come home… I am proud of the ruckus, I am hopeful there will be more meetings with President Trump and urge him to take positive steps to change national conversations with consumers – our voices, represented by CASAA. We need to continue to CHANGE the conversation daily. To be louder. To show up at hearings. ALL the stuff you already know.
Maybe we should step on We, the people’s lawn more often.
I am convinced Schell Hammel read this blog on Friday night in advance after chatting with her on Smoke-Free Radio!
CASAA released its statement HERE.
Comprehensive coverage of this event by Jim McDonald is available here.
You can read the full transcript of the meeting here.
You can watch the complete coverage of President Trump’s discussion unfold here.
Run-on sentence alert bonus:
If you told me back on May 23rd of 2013 I would create a blog, author a survey, email & call local, state and federal officials, tweet like a madman, participate in state organization meetings, come to despise and distrust what I thought was the epitome of “public health“, travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to see a 1 1/2 hour movie, make friends around the country and worldwide, publicly challenge the claim of addiction to nicotine, travel to Washington D.C. to rally against my own government to protest a ban less harmful products
because officials calling themselves “public health” demanded it, and then see some of those people I admire take a seat at the table with the President of the United States because my wife and I quit smoking… I’d have told you to pound sand.
Before you go, a cautionary tale from Lou Ritter:
This isn’t over…
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