What’s an advocate?
There are lots of vaping advocates, and they all have the same essential goal: to keep vapor products legal and available for smokers and nicotine users, with as few restrictions and financial roadblocks as possible.
Some advocates work on behalf of the industry — for trade groups or individual companies — and others represent consumers. Some advocacy groups are hybrids of business and consumer interests.
Nowadays, policy experts at think tanks and universities, and sympathetic newspaper and magazine columnists are contributing to the fight to change public opinion too. And, of course, there are many individual vapers who work independently to oppose unjust laws and promote vaping to smokers.
Some of the people who work on behalf of vapers and the vaping market are paid for their work. Many more aren’t. Often a substantial part of the money raised by trade groups goes toward hiring professional lobbyists — “government relations” specialists — who perform crucial roles in educating legislators and helping to prevent bad legislation from ever gaining a toehold (and helping to promote good legislation too, though that’s quite rare).
Since many vaping companies are owned by people new to the business world, our political efforts still suffer from a shortage of cash. It’s hard to convince struggling shop owners that this is money well spent. Some entrepreneurs are still unaware of the looming deeming regulations that will put them out of business barely more than a year from now, unless we can pressure Congress into acting soon.
Vaping360 applauds all vaping advocates, and we hope that spotlighting some of the best will spur more vapers into taking action. You don’t have to dedicate yourself to it full time, but we can all do good things to help vaping. Whether you’re writing letters to the editor, persuading friends and family — and other vapers — to call elected officials, or speaking at a local hearing on vaping legislation, you can make a difference. Everyone’s voice is needed!
This isn’t meant to be a list of the top four advocates. There are too many great people involved in vaping to even attempt that. The idea is to have a representative sample of different kinds of advocates, from different places. Some of these folks are more famous than others, but they all work hard to help us keep vaping.
Oliver Kershaw is probably best known as the founder of the E-Cigarette Forum (ECF), and later vaping.com. Though he’s one of the best-known people in vaping, many may not realize the effect he’s had helping change opinions in the British public health sphere, which was not always as vape-friendly as it is now.
Kershaw and Amanda Strange organized and promoted the E-Cigarette Summit in London, bringing together scientists, public health officials, and sympathetic observers, and encouraged a series of discussions that did much to change attitudes toward vaping in the U.K. (The Summit series has continued, though Strange is running it without Kershaw these days. The first U.S. E-Cig Summit was just held this week.)
He has used the ECF platform to conduct high-quality surveys of vapers’ beliefs and practices. He is also one of the most thoughtful writers about vaping and smoking.
Like a lot of advocates, the job was more a necessity than a choice for Amy Lane. She was working as a paramedic and also running a small brick-and-mortar store called Alchemist Vapor Shop in Peru, Indiana, when the state rammed through the bizarre law that instantly made almost all e-liquid illegal to produce or sell. The shops and juice manufacturers in Indiana needed to organize, and she jumped in with both feet to make it happen.
Little more than a year later, the corruption that drove the Indiana law is being exposed (and it just keeps dripping out), and the tireless work of Amy Lane and her colleagues at the Indiana Smoke-Free Alliance (she is the president) has paid off in a just-passed bill repealing the worst parts of the old law. Lane is the perfect example of the sort of vaping advocate we like best. She didn’t seek out the job, but when it had to be done, she did it.
Like most vaping advocates, Alex Clark began as a vaper. He was known for a campaign of tweets to legislators that he provided daily for interested vapers to post. This led to involvement with CASAA, where he joined the board in 2014. He quickly became the consumer advocacy group’s legislative director, then in 2016 legislative coordinator (actually CASAA’s only paid position at that time).
This year he took over as CASAA’s chief executive officer, succeeding Julie Woessner (who remains as president of the board and national policy director). Clark is the guy who flies around the country, speaking at hearings and vaping events, meeting with elected officials, and issuing the calls to action CASAA is best known for. He actually drove the Right To Vape Tour bus. He is one of the best known and most effective vaping advocates in the U.S.
Who is the smartest, most capable vaping advocate in the world? Well, we don’t know for sure, but it might just be the administrator of the Irish Vape Vendors Association (IVVA). While some advocates understand the politics, others grasp the science, and some are good speakers and quick on their feet, Gillian Golden puts all those things together, and goes a couple steps further.
She doesn’t merely have a basic working understanding of most scientific studies, as many vaping advocates do. No, she can read complex studies and pick out even subtle the flaws quickly. She can view multiple sides of a political issue, and do a quick assessment on why a public health person might be approachable from one angle but not another. She inspires confidence and trust in friends and opponents — a very valuable skill in an industry desperate for friends.
Someday she may get burned out and decide to make some real money as a lobbyist or a public relations specialist. But until then, the vaping businesses of Ireland can count themselves as extremely fortunate to have this most capable advocate.