This article was originally published Oct. 23.
With credible reports indicating that the Trump administration's flavor ban could be announced this week, it's crucial that vapers attend this rally to make it clear to the President and his advisers that we won't back down and we won't go away.
The rally will be just as important if the ban has already been announced as it will be if the final decision hasn't yet been made. We must show our strength and resolve to keep fighting!
In the days before the rally, keep calling and messaging the White House and telling them that menthol isn't the issue. We want all of the same choices that we have now, and we won't forget who took them away next November!
Call the White House at 202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414
What are you doing on Nov. 9? If you want to be part of history, and you can find a way to get to Washington, D.C., you should be a part of the United Vapers Alliance Rally. Thousands of vapers are expected to be there.
The rally will run from noon to 4:00 p.m. at The Ellipse, the 52-acre park also known as President’s Park South. It is just south of the White House south fence, and just north of the National Mall.
The park is visible to the occupants of the White House—and that’s the point, visibility. We want President Trump and our other elected officials in Washington to know that we exist, that we’re real people, that we vote, and that we’ll remember them come election time next year.
The UVA Rally has been organized by a group that includes members of the Vaping Legion, YouTube vape reviewer Matt Culley, and Kevin Crowley of THR4Life. It’s consumer-focused, and will not feature advertisements or products for sale. No one will profit from the rally, and it is not a promotional event for industry.
It’s all about vapers—and the 35 million smokers who will be further punished if vaping is no longer (easily) available as a choice for them. Vapor madness is running at fever pitch now, with studies suggesting that vaping advocates are bots, and widespread vaping product bans. It’s the perfect moment to turn the attention onto us.
“We want our voices heard,” Matt Culley says.
The event will feature speeches, both by well-known vaping advocates like AVA President Greg Conley and CASAA CEO Alex Clark, and by regular people who happen to be vapers.
There’s a private United Vapers Alliance Facebook group you should join if you consider attending. It has a lot of valuable information, do’s and don’ts, and suggestions from the rally organizers. They really have done a good job planning this event, but it’ll be up to the people who show up to make it successful.
The Facebook page has an announcements section with a lot of details, like advice on how to get there, what to bring, what not to bring (guns, knives, wooden sticks attached to your signs), and where to find bathrooms (bad news: not in the park) and food (ditto). Hey, the rally is only four hours long, so eat before you get there, and don’t have two large coffees with your breakfast.
The Facebook group has printable flyers and handouts for vape shops to post and give to customers. Please promote the event! The organizers are pulling off this huge undertaking without any advertising or sponsorships, so please consider donating to the cause.
There is also a car pooling thread where people without rides are encouraged to make connections with those who have extra space. It’s a nice reminder that while vaping is harm reduction and it’s attached to an industry, it’s really a movement and a community. Vapers care about each other.
The average high temp in Washington on Nov. 9 is about 60 F with an 8 MPH wind. That’s brisk, especially for people from the south or southwest. It could rain too. Your best bet is to check the weather just before the event and plan accordingly. Take two jackets and rain gear just in case.
There’s no free parking anywhere close, so you may want to do a little research in advance to find a parking place on the D.C. outskirts then take a train to the event. Washington is also chock full of cabs, and Uber and Lyft rides. The point is, think about these things in advance and you can save some money and make the experience easier.
Everyone who enters the park is subject to searches by the U.S. Park Police or Secret Service. Don’t be offended. The Ellipse lies directly across from the White House, and the park is managed by the National Park Service, and subject to White House security measures.
The rally ends at 4:00 p.m., so if you live within 300 miles or so, you’ll easily be able to get home Saturday night. But if Washington is far enough from home that you need to stay overnight, the city is full of hotels.
Even better, there are lots of Airbnb options. A quick search found many homes with space to sleep four available for the weekend (Friday-Sunday) for $100-200 a night. There will be no shortage of impromptu get togethers after the rally, and you may be glad you decided to stay an extra day.
There will be reporters and cameras there, and we want them focused on a group of passionate consumer advocates coming together to protest peacefully—not on a few knuckleheads acting stupid. So if you see people doing that, help them remember the reason we’re there. The vapers at the rally are representing millions of others.
If counter-protesters show up, ignore them. They have a right to their beliefs, but Nov. 9 is a day that should be focused on vapers. Arguing with anti-nicotine zealots—or, even worse, teenagers brought in by tobacco control groups—will only diminish the power of vapers’ voices. This is a day for anger, but not anger directed at misinformed individuals. We should be happy to be together speaking out loudly for vaping, not against something else.
Media-trained vaping advocates will be there to handle interviews. However, if someone sticks a microphone in your face, be calm and polite and tell the truth about how vaping helped you. Don’t try to tell them the history of the Master Settlement Agreement, or explain your pet theory about Matthew Myers and Big Tobacco, or blame all of our problems on JUUL. Those are nuanced discussions you won’t have time for. Keep it simple, and say you’re here to stand up for the thing that helped you.
“We’re really sick of being marginalized,” says Nick Green—and that’s a great point to emphasize to anyone who wants to understand why we’re there.
Millions of people who used to smoke found a way to solve the problem for themselves, without pharma help or the FDA. Now we’re fighting for the right to not smoke—and we’re doing it together. In Washington. On Nov. 9, 2019.
Photo of Texas rally courtesy Gregory Conley, American Vaping Association.