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TSFA Vendors Participate in SFATA Fly-In to DC

On Wednesday, June 10th, 2015, accompanied by vape store owners and representatives all across Tennessee, I went to Washington, D.C. to meet on Capitol Hill to express the concerns of the Tennessee vaping industry. For those of us who attended, it was an incredible experience to be in that historic place, with a cause. We want to speak out for vapers, and for smokers who could quit by switching to vaping.

We started the day off with a light breakfast and briefing in downtown D.C. There we coordinated our strategy of what would be most effective in the short times we would have with each office. Our main talking points would include items such as supporting HR 2058, which would force the FDA to extend the grandfather date in their regulations from February 2007 to February of 2014, supporting potential future legislation that would set a nationwide age to vape as 18+ and would support requirements for Child Safety Caps on e-liquid, and stressing the business impact of each store represented. I would mention in each meeting a brief description of TSFA’s mission, and relay that out of our 67 supporting stores we have over 300 employees and occupy over 100, 000 square feet of retail space. These figures are only about 20 percent of all the vape shops in Tennessee.

From there, we took cabs to Capitol Hill, specifically the House of Representatives buildings. Once we went through security, there were a series of tunnels, or underground hallways, that went between the three House office buildings, and a Subway that goes to the Capitol Building. We met with 6 Representatives’ Staffers and both Senators staffers. Overall, we had a fairly positive response. To me, the biggest thing that happened on Wednesday was what happened in each and every office we visited (granted, most meetings were held in the hallway). When we walked in with a group of 14 Tennesseans, they were quite surprised. This indicated the importance of the Vape Shops owners and representatives coming to DC to voice their concerns.

The Takeaway? This was an enormous lesson in how things work on Capitol Hill, and where we stand in the grand political scheme. Lawmakers are aware of our industry, but, for the most part, are not aware of the fight we are up against, and the curtain that is being put in place to blind the people to the lives that can be saved by the vaping industry. These lawmakers do not have reign over the FDA unless the law specifically changes something in the regulations. We need to encourage our federal legislators to keep an eye on the FDA, and continually inform them that an entire industry that brings in millions in tax dollars could potentially be wiped out by one strike of a pen by the FDA. Many of the staffers we spoke with were not aware that the FDA’s deeming regulations, as posted last year, would hand the entire industry to Big Tobacco. Our shop owners and vapers alike must take action on the state and federal level if we have hopes of saving the industry from over regulation.

Please support the campaigns of lawmakers who are friendly to our cause, and contact your legislators’ offices to voice your concerns.

Jonathan Beardsley

Vice President/Executive Director East TN

Tennessee Smoke Free Association

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