A California Assembly committee rejected a bill that would prevent grocery, convenience and drug stores from selling tobacco products. (Remember that tobacco products now include e-cigs and all vapor products in California.) SB 1400 would have limited tobacco sales to tobacco stores (including vape shops) that generate more than 60 percent of their income from tobacco sales, and don’t allow entrance to customers under age 21. The committee didn’t even take a vote.
According to a story in the Sacramento Bee, analysis from the Assembly Business and Professions Committee staff showed that more than 30,000 stores would lose the ability to sell tobacco products if SB 1400 passed. While that might be good for vape shops, it wouldn’t be good for consumers. There are lots of vapers who buy their vaping gear and e-liquid in other kinds of stores, and many who have no interest in wading into the hobbyist environment of vape shops.
The bill was opposed by retail and distribution associations. More than 200 business owners filled the hearing room to explain that the bill would destroy their businesses. And even though the majority of these businesses do sell cigarettes and other combustible tobacco products, the assembly members listened attentively and refused to advance the bill through the legislative process.
Why did convenience store owners succeed where vapor businesses have failed? Probably because they have been active meeting their legislators and creating relationships with them. Elected officials do pay attention to small businesses in their districts; they are very sensitive to the needs of the entrepreneurs who provide jobs and improve the economic well-being. Wouldn’t it be nice if vaping businesses had this kind of clout?
Vendors need to join trade associations…now! They need to make contact with their state and federal legislators, and explain why they should be taken seriously. They need to join local fraternal organizations like Chambers of Commerce that can be valuable allies. And businesses need to start supporting the campaigns of sympathetic legislators financially. Vapers should be asking the shops and manufacturers they patronize what those businesses are doing to help. And they should stop patronizing the ones who don’t have good answers. Everyone needs to grasp that this whole industry is going to come crashing down in about two years if we don’t get serious now.