And where are many ways to fight for vaping. Joining CASAA, supporting companies that are actively challenging oppressive regulation, contributing to advocacy and calling on our elected representatives to support bills like HR 2058 along with any local legislation that may need to be either supported or opposed.
The fight for vaping rights is more than HR 2058. If HR 2058 is passed that would mean that every product on the market as of August 8, 2016 will be grandfathered and will be able to stay on the market beyond August 8, 2018 without having to pay as much as a million dollars to clear the administrative paperwork hurdles. HR 2058 would be progress but it does not address the ability of entrepreneurs and manufacturers to develop new products going forward. HR 2058 is a good start.
Ideally, meeting established quality and safety standards would represent the barrier to entry for new products as opposed to being forced to spend millions of dollars just to sell a new e-juice flavor. Allowing vape shops to make a coil for a customer or to show a customer how to use a mod without being considered a manufactuer would be a big step forward for product safety. Contacting your representative at state and federal levels is one of the ways that we need to make this happen.
How To Contact Your Elected Rep
Emily Ellsworth has worked for Congressmen and she recently highlighted how to get the attention of your rep. First and foremost a Tweet or Facebook message or YouTube comment is not going to accomplish anything. In fact, it will probably never be seen. These comments are screened and the particularly negative ones removed by a staffer and your rep will never see or hear about it.
Aggressive, angry language will only cloud your argument. A verbal attack will negate your argument. Keep it uptone and keep it real. Tell your story, identify studies, and make a case. Sending a letter or email to the Washington, DC office is not nearly as effective as sending a written letter to a district office. That said, none of these methods are as effective as phoning a district office.
Emily Ellsworth said that it is impossible to read and respond to all of the letters that are received. She said that a computer algorithm would sort emails and respond with pre-composed form letters as a response to concerns. So if you write and get a form letter response it may not be because your concerns have been dismissed but more likely because your concerns were never specifically noted.
So make a phone call to a district office and make your points. That’s a first step. And here is the real trick to getting your argument and case heard. Show up at town hall meetings, bring a group and ask questions. Get to know and communicate with the staffers.
Your Rep’s Staffers May Be Your Biggest Ally
Amy Ellsworth said that when she worked for Congressmen, she loved meeting groups and concerned citizens. If you have an organized vaping advocacy group, invite your reps local staff to attend. If you are a vape shop owner, invite a staff member to your shop. They might be surprised to learn how regulations are handcuffing basic customer service. Let them get to know the vaping community.
If you look at where public opinion is on vaping we have to be able to admit that the anti-vaping special interests are doing a very good job discrediting vapor products. The public opinion has deteriorated. We up up against a very large machine. We don’t have access to taxpayer dollars to buy TV ads. Vapers don’t have lobbyists all over Washington, but we do have passion and personal experience that can’t be denied. And we have to invite people to get to know us and relate to them one at a time if necessary. A great place to start would be the local staff members at your rep’s nearest office.
Staffers Run The Ground Game
Ellseworth says that the staff run the ground game for Congress. She says to work on them and help them learn your issues. Be firm in your views but kind. Chances are you are going to get to know and like each other.
When legislation comes up, you will know a staff member and have someone to call and talk to. So, call the district office, be firm in your message but kind, get to know the staff members, invite them to events, vape shop owners invite them to your store. Get to know the staffers, make a freind, and let’s win people over one at a time if necessary.
We can’t outspend the special interests and we can’t compete with agencies with huge adverstising budgets and media contacts but we can make progress at the grass roots level.