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July 28, 2022
4 min to read

Gregory Conley Takes External Affairs Job at AVM

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Jim McDonald

After more than a decade as one of vaping’s most prominent freelance defenders, Gregory Conley will join the American Vapor Manufacturers Association. His title is Director of Legislative and External Affairs, and he will focus on government and media relations.

Conley has a long history of speaking for vaping consumers and the independent vaping industry at legislative hearings and in radio and television appearances, as president of the American Vaping Association (AVA). He will also continue to lead the AVA, which will shift its efforts to voter education and outreach. The AVA name may change, Conley says.

The American Vapor Manufacturers Association (AVM) was launched in 2020 by Amanda Wheeler and Char Owen, both small vaping business owners attempting to navigate the complex FDA premarket review process. The organization represents vape manufacturers across the country, and has become the most prominent trade organization in the industry. Wheeler serves as president of AVM, and is herself a highly visible vaping advocate.

“Gregory is a critical voice for vaping and understands adult smokers and ex-smokers face dire circumstances because of the FDA,” Wheeler said in a press release. “One single billionaire is pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into campaigns designed to end the vaping industry. The stakes have never been greater and I am thrilled to have him aboard to work towards a unified industry.”

Conley’s involvement with vaping began as a consumer. He quit smoking with e-cigarettes while earning a law degree from Rutgers University, and joined the recently formed Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA) in 2010 while still a student. He began as a volunteer, soon became a board member, and then CASAA’s first Legislative Director.

In 2014, he founded the American Vaping Association, a non-profit dedicated to vaping advocacy. While the organization has been mostly a one-man show, it certainly has never seemed that way, especially during crisis moments when Conley might jump from writing op-eds to doing TV interviews to testifying before state legislatures—sometimes all in one day.

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In television appearances on CNN, Fox News, C-SPAN and others, he has proved ready with complex facts and quick responses that unprepared network pundits were unable to refute. Once, while visiting congressional offices in Washington, he accidentally encountered Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, and used the occasion to engage with the surprised Obama official and give him a copy of the Royal College of Physicians report on vaping and harm reduction.

In his most famous TV appearance, Conley found himself sitting three chairs away from President Donald Trump at Trump’s roundtable listening session on vaping, which was unexpectedly broadcast live by several TV networks. Conley, sitting alongside anti-vaping activists like Truth Initiative’s Robin Koval and Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, briefly but effectively explained the “EVALI” lung injuries, the harm caused to small businesses by the FDA PMTA process, and the likely results of a flavor ban. When Juul Labs’ CEO spoke up to defend the FDA, Conley shot him down with a withering comment about regulatory capture and monopolies, earning a chuckle from Trump.

“Over the last decade-plus, myself and millions of American adults have given up cigarettes because of vaping,” Conley said today in a statement. “During that time, I have been proud to advocate for vaping from the perspective of a consumer and harm reductionist. In this new role at AVM, I will continue to push for appropriate regulations to ensure that American businesses are not replaced with a multi-billion dollar illicit market. I look forward to helping grow AVM alongside Amanda and her board.”

Featured photo courtesy the American Vaping Association.

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Jim McDonald

Vaping since: 12 years

Favorite products:

Favorite flavors: RY4-style tobaccos, fruits

Expertise in: Political and legal challenges, tobacco control haters, moral panics

Jim McDonald

Smokers created vaping without help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and I believe vapers have the right to continue innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I’m a member of the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy

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