ATTN Vapers: Please Fight Smarter Against Legislation

A look at how some vapers are fighting against California anti-vaping legislation poorly

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Chess

Last week, the California state assembly and state senate advanced bills that are harmful to vaping. ABx2-6, ABx2-7, ABx2-8, and SBx2-5 include legislation that would make vaping more difficult for consumers and businesses alike. These bills would classify vaping as tobacco products, raise the vaping age to 21, and hinder online sales of vaping products. As you’d expect, many vapers and owners of vape businesses are unhappy with these bills. Unfortunately, some of them are fighting against these proposed laws in ways that make vapers and the vaping business look bad.

When Typos Attack

Keyboard "Oops"

Some vapers circulated digital flyers, asking people to call California governor Jerry Brown to urge him to veto these bills. Unfortunately, some of these flyers had the wrong phone number for Brown’s office. This was bad on several levels.

First of all, it was annoying for the young woman whose number was posted. I’m sure her phone was blowing up the day after the aforementioned bills were passed. I’m certain it wasn’t pleasant.

Secondly, and more importantly, it makes vapers look incompetent. To politicians, it makes vapers seem like a group of people that are quick to react, but don’t bother to get vital details (like phone numbers) correct. To the powers that are funding politicians (more on that in a bit), it makes vapers look like easy targets. They don’t have a lot to worry about when some vapers are getting people to call incorrect phone numbers.

On the positive side, there were way more flyers with the correct phone number than there were flyers with the incorrect one. People were also quick to leave comments noting that the phone number was incorrect. Still, considering what vapers are going up against, people need to be smarter about things.

Know Thy Enemy

Recognize the Enemy

Social media posts blaming big tobacco for ABx2-6, ABx2-7, ABx2-8, and SBx2-5 really irked me. I saw many posts — written by people with notable reach and influence in various vaping circles — blaming the wrong party. Big tobacco companies were not the enemy here; it was ignorant and misguided for vapers to target their anger at cigarette companies in this case.

It doesn’t make sense for big tobacco to want these particular bills signed into law. Why would they want the smoking age limit raised to 21?!? It hurts big tobacco as much as it hurts vaping. The reality is that at the California state and local levels, big tobacco has spent more money fighting these bills than vaping lobbyists have. Make no mistake — big tobacco is no “friend” to vaping on the national and global levels, but blaming that industry in this case is misguided.

On the partisan side, California republicans are generally taking more money from big tobacco than democratic counterparts. According to the Sacramento Bee, Philip Morris contributed $200,000 to the California Republican Party in 2015, while, “RJ Reynolds also gave $240,000 to candidates and campaign committees last year.” The newspaper also noted that the two republican state assemblymen that voted for the bill, “returned almost $11,000 in contributions from the tobacco companies over the summer.” On the other side of the aisle, “Democrats who voted against or abstained on the tobacco measures received at least $26,000” from Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds.

As you’d expect, California democrats largely support the bills cited above, while republicans are predominantly against them.

If you don’t know who the enemy is, how can you win the fight?

Big pharma is the real enemy in this case and, in my opinion, the much bigger concern nationally. Vaping is a threat to smoking-cessation solutions like Chantix, nicotine gum, and nicotine patches. Naturally, pharmaceutical companies want to stifle the growth of vaping. Thankfully for them, they funded enough democrats to get these bills passed.

Vapers need to know where the money is coming from and who’s really behind the legislation. It’s another case of how vapers need to fight smarter, not necessarily harder, against tremendous opposition.

The Difference Between Bills and Laws

Draft Bill

Another mistake I see vapers making is referring to ABx2-6, ABx2-7, ABx2-8, and SBx2-5 as “laws.” These bills are not laws, yet. While the process varies in different American states, bills are normally signed into law by the state’s governor.

To give you an idea of how the process works in California, here’s an excerpt from the Official California Legislative Information website, “If both houses approve a bill, it then goes to the governor. The governor has three choices. The governor can sign the bill into law, allow it to become law without his or her signature, or veto it. A governor’s veto can be overridden by a two thirds vote in both houses.”

For a more entertaining explanation of the American legislative process, I recommend watching this Schoolhouse Rock video. It’s about bills and laws on the national level, but many of the same principles apply to the state level.

It’s definitely bad news that California state assembly and state senate passed these bills, but the fight isn’t over yet. There is still a lot that can happen and vapers can still influence the outcome. People need to call the governor’s office and urge him to veto the bill. Even if you don’t live in California, I recommend calling the governor’s office if you’re a customer of a California vaping company; let Mr. Brown know that these “proposed” laws will have a detrimental impact on businesses that operate and pay taxes in his state. Californians need to find their state congressman and state senator to let them know that they’re against these bills. Remember, if the governor vetoes these bills, their potential to become laws rests with the state assembly and state senate.

Californication

Los Angekes Pinpoint

You might be asking, “What does California vaping legislation have to do with me?” By most estimates, more than half of the vaping companies in America are based in California. If you’ve ordered vaping hardware or e-liquids from a company based in California, it might become more difficult to do so in the future if these bills become law. The worst-case scenario is that a California-based business you buy vaping goods from will shut down due to adverse conditions.

On a macro level, other states would have a precedent to restrict vaping. Remember, there was a time in America where smoking tobacco cigarettes in public indoor venues was commonplace. San Luis Obispo, CA was the first city in America to ban smoking in bars and restaurants. Now it’s the norm.

California anti-vaping legislation has the potential to impact vapers nationally and globally.

Looking at the big picture, vaping is facing off against big tobacco and big pharma on the national and global levels. Those industries are much older and much larger than vaping. Those businesses have far more money and much more experience lobbying. Going up against them is a tremendous challenge.

With that in mind, vapers need to be smarter. They need to be well informed. They can’t afford to come off as ineffectual. A vaper having a strong reaction to ABx2-6, ABx2-7, ABx2-8, and SBx2-5 is expected, but I urge you to think before you act. I hope that vapers take advantage of resources like The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA). I hope that everyone in the vaping business is working with the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA). I want everyone that reads Vaping360 to check out NotBlowingSmoke.org (my favorite resource for vaping advocacy information). The more you know, the more effective you’ll be when it comes to fighting legislation like ABx2-6, ABx2-7, ABx2-8, and SBx2-5. In the immortal words of Captain Planet, “The power is yours!”

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Raymond Padilla
Raymond Padilla is a level 26 Pokemon Go trainer, a longtime journalist, and an accomplished verbal entertainer. Kindly visit him at his personal website "RPadTV" (linked above) or his various social media accounts (linked below).
  • Mackenzie Calhoun

    Great article.

    Another thing you can do that is surprisingly effective is to visit your local state representative and/or senator (http://www.legislature.ca.gov/legislators_and_districts/legislators/your_legislator.html). A lot of them have local offices in their districts and all you have to do is call to find out when they are in. You will be a lot harder to ignore when you are face-to-face with someone.

    If you live anywhere near Sacramento, you can also try to schedule an appointment to talk to your legislator when they are in session. It is not uncommon for small groups of activists to visit their legislators in person. If you could just get 15-30 people to visit your representatives in the state capitol (well dressed, of course), it would be more meaningful than a phone call or angry e-mail. If you do that, it would be wise to have a pamphlet making key arguments/points in your favor to not only hand to your representatives, but their entire staff as well. Many people underestimate the power of a legislator’s staff. Sometimes, talking with a key staff member is more important than talking to the actual representative/senator. These politicians rarely know anything about almost every issue and they depend on key staff members to keep them informed or ask what position they should take. I’d be willing to wager that most politicians don’t know jack about vaping, so it should be your job to not only educate them, but their staff as well. Let them know why the pharmaceutical companies want to restrict vaping. Also mention that vapers are tax-payers and voters and that you will be paying close attention on how they vote. They have to know that their vote for “big pharma” will have consequences at the polls. Eventually, if you get a big enough army, a lot of them will bend with enough pressure, but only if everyone is unified on the message and everything is coordinated.

    Good luck.

    • That’s excellent advice, Sir. Thanks very much!

  • Murray_B

    Interesting article but big government does not want to lose the revenues they received during their decades-long war on smokers. Now that the ranks of smokers have been decimated all the little anti-smoker bigots are looking for new groups to stigmatize to maintain funding. Neither Big Tobacco or Big Pharma were the main beneficiaries of tobacco taxes so it was always to benefit the well-funded whores of big governments .

    Don’t let the government propagandists cause you to chase your own tail. We all need to demand that they end the war on smokers and completely demobilize their forces instead of bombing cambod … um … I mean declaring a new war on vapers.