The State of Conversation

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As I’ve done before – I posted an example of timeless advice I read early on in my journey of advocating on my Facebook page last week called “The Vaping Advocate’s Rules For Campaigning” created by one of my idols, Chris Price.

In that post, I had a conversation with someone I adore, gets it, engages, understands what some of us forget about ‘community’, and is already going to meetings, all the while – she’s teaching some of us “old dogs” new tricks.

As I posted it, I stated “I am particularly fond of #9.”

Cherry Lai responded: “I want #11 & #12.

I replied: “Yes“.

Cherry replied: “This week I have learned a very important lesson. Both the vaper community and vapor industry must build relationships with their prospective lawmakers at all levels of the government before the words “flavor ban” are even uttered. When a proposed ban is scheduled for a hearing, most of the time it is too late to change anyone’s mind.”

“A big thank you to all the state associations who have worked tirelessly with their legislators behind the scene to protect the vaper community and vapor industry! Also, CASAA!

Cherry speaking against the “ban the sale of flavored tobacco products – not including menthol or hookah lounges – in the city of Los Angeles” – (No audio) link

Her response immediately brought me to think of an “article” I worked on for someone, but it, and the project, never saw the light of day. Well, she re-inspired me.

I replied: “You are SO right, Cherry. This is an article I was working on in August. While it was never published, and was aimed at – and designed for – industry eyes… it remains intact. Of course you can take your, and my words – and consumer/community view of what you just said with it: ‘before the words “flavor ban” are even uttered”…

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That got me to thinking… and now have proudly collaborated what was, at inception, more for industry eyes. However, like writing a song, “The State of Conversation” with Cherry’s words in italics and bold, within, took on a different meaning.

Below is my hat-tip to Cherry.

The State of Conversation

I’m grateful to have your attention. I am a consumer, I’m not in your industry. I see the need for the conversation to change at every level.

I say “change the conversation”. I mean that for those already facing local and state regulations, restrictions, taxes and bans. For those of you who are not, I urge, no implore you to create the conversation.

Preemptive strike

To quote Oliver Kershaw from September 2018:

“There’s only one solution – Unity and aggression.”

State industry groups are not a luxury, they are a requirement. More than likely, contributions are tax-deductible. (Legalese: check with your accountant). Your chosen industry group can be the network needed to watch for local, state, (and national) legislation before it becomes past-tense information.

Your state group should have resources to both provide and contribute to, for you and other members with experience and advice between you. That leaves you time to run your business, and tend to your customers.

Make your presence known. Change the conversation.

Get in front of these people. When a town, city, or state is in the process of enacting a law or laws, there is forethought. Someone, probably a national “health” organization, from a local or state level, already had an ear of a council member or three – or five.

The power of national “health” organizations are influential in creating and changing laws on all levels. Those organizations already have the ear of decision-makers long before you walk in. It seems they have made up their mind when a business owner like yourself, prepared or not, walks to the podium for what inevitably is a quick, and timed statement.

Some of those decision makers (or friends, family members) may be volunteers of those organizations. They’ve met. They have other agendas. They carry credibility. They have a long-standing history.

Explain your business.

Your business provides a significantly less harmful alternative product and service for consumers to reduce or eliminate smoking. You are a local concern. You provide jobs and revenue.

Request officials to take a meeting. Be the first in the door. Explain what you already know they will be, or already are concerned about in relation to your product, your business. Explain the importance of less harm. Explain your business.

They should already know vaping products are an adult product. Explain the gateway theory is false. Explain what you know about the Synar Amendment. Tell them your abilities to stop underage points of sale at a higher rate than the 20% acceptable failure rate the current amendment provides. Provide solutions.

Explain why “Tobacco 21”, while looking good on paper, does not work, and why. Ask them if they plan on regulating, restricting, taxing or banning a less harmful adult choice to 18, 19, and 20 year olds in your community. If they do – or plan to, then ask them why.

Prove yourselves in all aspects.

SHOW them data, science, and research from reputable sources, including statements from health organizations and government officials. Talk with them coherently about nicotine. Show them you are not a “tobacco” product by any means including the definition and should not be taxed as such.

Then, go to your local city or county health department. Then, your nearest (friendly and always concerned) local non-profit health organization as well if they’ll listen. Sound crazy? Good.

I say “change the conversation”. I mean that. Instead of changing the conversation, create the conversation.

If ordinances and laws have been enacted, ask how they can be rescinded. Use the “Freedom of Information Act” with inquiries. Act quickly. Get consumers involved, use consumer testimonials. Use the media to your advantage. While we all know the answer, publicly ask why health and public officials are against a much less harmful, smoke-free alternative to smoking.

Both the vaper community and vapor industry must build relationships with their perspective lawmakers at all levels of the government before the words “flavor ban” are even uttered. When a proposed ban is scheduled for a hearing, most of the time it is too late to change anyone’s mind.

In that conversation, if possible, business should partner with consumers, so both sides can be presented and heard. 1, 2 or even 3 minute testimonies, in my opinion, are just for shows as it is required for them to hear us speak, but they are not required to listen to our words. We need to be organized, take the initiative and be aggressive!

Stop trying to prove them wrong, prove yourselves right.

To quote Oliver Kershaw from September 2018 again:

“There’s only one solution – Unity and aggression.”

Like “we” did on November 22nd in the White House.

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