Welcome to the seventh edition of the Standing Together blog series. Last week we talked about standing together and speaking out. As you now know, I realize I may end up stepping on a few toes. I will be as tactful as possible, and genuinely do not mean to offend. That being said; there are things I believe need to be said and discussed as a community. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at preparing for e-cigarette legislation.
Very soon, the picture above is going to be a reality where e-cigs are concerned. We may not like it but the reality is, there is nothing that can or should be done to stop the regulation of e-cigs. Legislation is intended to protect the people, and the right legislation can do exactly that for our community. However, very few of the proposed laws I have seen are taking a welcoming stance to the e-cig industry. In fact, the majority have consisted of bans. Since we know legislation is coming, and that the current trend is not favorable, let’s look at what we can do as a community to prepare for the inevitable.
The first thing we can do is take a close look at what we’re saying and how we’re acting. Public opinion does matter, and our actions have a direct impact on that. Remember that we are under a microscope and even an emotional moment posted on twitter or FB can be used against us. The University of Arizona and the Mayo Clinic have received a 5 year – $2.7 million grant to study social media for e-cig users habits and health information, Arizona E-Cigarette Social Media Study Targets Facebook and Twitter. That means everything we say online is going to be evaluated based on the bias of the person reading it.
The second thing we need to understand is that we’re not fighting a fair battle. Whether it’s true or not, e-cigs are being treated as a tobacco product. We are fighting the past sins and pre-conceived notions relating e-cigarettes to tobacco. Unfortunately, that is the easiest part of the battle we’re up against. Big tobacco and big pharmaceuticals are not our biggest fans. Tell me, do you think their profits have gone up or down since e-cigs gained popularity? Yet, I don’t believe that’s our biggest battle either. Consider this, how much money does your state make from the cigarette taxes? Has big tobacco or big pharma had any part in contributing to your current legislators election campaigns? What impact do you think that will have on the mindset of the legislators reviewing the proposed e-cig laws?
Third, recognize that e-cig companies are preparing for legislation as well. While it stinks when your favorite flavor is discontinued, or procedures change, it’s possible that legislation preparation has something to do with it. Some of the proposed legislation includes the requirement to have each flavor of e-juice and each nicotine level within that flavor be tested and approved to be sold, at the companies expense. In response, it’s imperative for a company (like us) to limit the amount of flavors and nicotine levels we offer in order to ensure we can follow this regulation if it passes and still stay in business. Increasing efficiency and streamlining processes, like our freebie policy, may not be your favorite thing in the world, but it does allow the ability to take other steps for legislation preparation behind the scenes. While we understand this sucks sometimes, please take a moment to think about why the change may have been implemented and try to give a little grace to whatever vendor you use.
Fourth, ensure you’re educated on the facts surrounding e-cigs. Keep this thought in the back of your mind, even if a study doesn’t say exactly what we want, our voice will never be heard if the recipient thinks we’re twisting information to support our goals. Trust is necessary to make a difference. So, recognize that there are many conflicting studies, and that there are more to be done, but take a very close look at who funded the study before taking the results as fact. In order to affect public opinion we need to know the facts, and be able to communicate them to anyone willing to listen.
Fifth, we need to each do our part in to speak out. Knowing that the battle is in no small part about money, be sure you’re using their language. Speak/write calmly and be polite. The person reading it is not personally responsible for what we view as unjust, so be respectful. Focus on facts: how e-cigs changed your life; the money you are now investing in the economy because you have more to shop with; the jobs of the people in your local vape shop; etc. Don’t sit back and hope the vape shops will be able to create the change on their own. We’re fighting, believe me, but when you look at the sheer numbers and size of the companies we’re up against, we need every voice in the community to be loud enough and strong enough to truly make an impact.
Our last, yet in no way least, piece to preparing for legislation is recognizing that public opinion matters. The media has done a great job of stirring up the public, unfortunately the majority of it is scare tactics and misinformation surrounding the e-cig industry. If you’re that person that pulls out their vape and blows it into the faces of everyone around them without a thought to courtesy, leaving your e-juice in areas where they can be harmful to children/pets, or not understanding battery safety and setting fires, then you are providing all the fuel they need to show e-cigs aren’t safe and should be banned. However, if you’re that person that is courteous and asks before vaping, keeps their e-juice safely tucked away, and always follows the manual instructions for their e-cig use than you’re helping to combat the fear-mongering. In fact, by asking about e-cig use instead of just vaping away and not caring, you tend to create a more open and interested opinion about e-cigs from the person you’re asking. That gives you the opportunity to share a positive side of e-cigs. Tell me, which would you trust more about a new product, news articles, or someone you speak with directly that explains it to you? If simple actions like these can change the tide of public opinion from fear and dislike to support than our voice just keeps getting stronger.
In summary, we need to understand the battle we’re really fighting, and the motivations. As a community we can take a moment to think before we blast negativity in social media or how we behave when vaping in public to positively influence public opinion. We can cut each other some slack, and make sure we’re all standing together as a united front and voicing our opinion to our lawmakers. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – We can positively influence change in legislation, but it will take all of us to do it.
Come back next week when we take a look at surviving and thriving as a community. Until then, let us know your thoughts. Stand together vapers and vape on!
Written By: Michelle Harnden