Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Call to Action! Rhode Island Bills Impose 80% Tax on E-Cigarettes and Unreasonable Requirements for Online Sales

UPDATE 6/25/14:  The Rhode Island Call to Action has been successfully concluded.  The 80% tax failed to pass, and HB 7021 was amended to eliminate the onerous restrictions on internet sales.

UPDATE 6/4/14:   This is a good news/bad news update.  The bad news:  HB 7133 HB 7133 has been set for consideration by the House Committee on Finance on THURSDAY, June 5th, 2014.  HB 7133 includes, among other things, an excise tax of 80% of wholesale price on all e-cigarette devices.

It is imperative that vapers and harm reduction advocates contact members of the House Finance Committee NOW to express opposition to the e-cigarette tax.  We're also asking that you proactively contact the Senate Finance Committee as well.  Full details on contact information and suggested talking points are included in Part II of this Call to Action.  

The good news:  Due to efforts of CASAA members, the House Judiciary Committee decided to hold HB 7021 (restrictions on internet sales) for further study.  We will continue to update on HB 7021 as more information becomes available.

UPDATE 5/28/14:  HB 7021 has been set for a hearing on THURSDAY, MAY 29th, 2014 before the House Judiciary Committee.  The hearing will be open to the public and testimony will be accepted.  A vote may occur at the discretion of the chairman.  The meeting will occur at the "rise of the House" (approximately 4:00 PM) in Room 101 of the State House (82 Smith Street in Providence).

Rhode Island vapers and harm reduction advocates, please (1) attend the hearing on THURSDAY, May 29th, 2014 to offer testimony in opposition to HB 7021, and (2) participate in CASAA's CQ Roll Call Campaign:

EMAIL your Rhode Island Representative

CALL your Rhode Island Representative

UPDATE 3/21/14:  HB 7021 has been set for hearing on WEDNESDAY, 3/26/14 before the House Judiciary.   Link to Agenda  The meeting will occur at the "rise of the House"  (approximately 4:00 P.M.) in Room 205 of the State House (82 Smith Street in Providence).  

Please (i) continue to call and email members of the House Judiciary to let them know you oppose HB 7021 (See Part I of the Call to Action for contact information and talking points), and (ii) attend this hearing and offer testimony.  (As a sign of respect, we ask you to please refrain from vaping in the committee room.)

Monday, May 26, 2014

CASAA's Comment to OMB/OIRA regarding Paperwork Reduction Act and FDA Deeming Regulation

To:      Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs

From:  Carl V Phillips, PhD
           Scientific Director
           The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA)

26 May 2014

Re: The Food and Drug Administration Deems Tobacco Products To Be Subject to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, as Amended by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act; Regulations Restricting the Sale and Distribution of Tobacco Products and Required Warnings for Tobacco Product Packages and Advertisements.

I am writing on behalf of the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA) to comment on issues stemming from the FDA’s proposed deeming regulation of e-cigarettes and other products as tobacco products that are related to the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA).  CASAA will comment later on other aspects of the proposed regulation.  

CASAA is a public health and education NGO, and is the leading representative of consumers who use or might in the future use smoke-free tobacco/nicotine products as an alternative to smoking.  CASAA is not an industry group and does not represent the interests of industry, and we realize that PRA issues are normally addressed by the regulated industry.  However, in this case most of the cost burden created by paperwork will fall upon consumers.  In particular, due to the paperwork burdens, hundreds of thousand of American consumers would lose access to the low-risk products that have allowed them to quit smoking and not return to it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Second Call to Action for FDA Proposed Regulations - Consumer Comment on Paperwork Reduction Act

UPDATE 5/27/14:  Part IIB of this Call to Action has been updated to ask that you use a DIFFERENT SUBJECT LINE in your email to OMB/OIRA.  If you have already submitted your email to OMB/OIRA, we are suggesting that in an over abundance of caution, you resend the email with the new subject line (see below Part IIB).

On Thursday, May 8th, CASAA released the Overview of its Action Plan Regarding Proposed FDA Regulations.  On May 11, 2014, CASAA released the first of several Calls to Action anticipated in CASAA's Action Plan.   This is the second Call to Action in CASAA's Action Plan.

There is an interim deadline for comments on the deeming regulation.  Specifically, any comments on the Paperwork Reduction Act aspects of the proposed regulation are due on Tuesday, May 27, 2014.  To a large extent, these are comments that merchants and manufacturers should be making rather than consumers, and we understand that the vendors are being mobilized to do it.  However, we have determined that it would be useful for consumers to make one particular comment in response to that, as appears below.

For those who do not know, the Paperwork Reduction Act is intended to force regulators to consider the costs of merely doing the paperwork and such needed to comply with a regulation (i.e., not the actual substantive requirements of the regulation).  We believe that FDA has used completely inappropriate estimates for the paperwork costs of this regulation.  In particular, they have estimated that there will be only 25 applications for premarket review of new tobacco products filed in connection with e-cigarette products. They have estimated very low numbers for the various other filings -- not as low as 25, but far fewer than there are merchants and products.

We all know that these numbers are far below the number of actual e-cigarette products on the market, and we need comments that make that known.  Basically FDA is either wrong about their estimates or are explicitly saying that all of the other products will be driven off the market.  While consumers cannot effectively comment on the question of whether that is accurate, you can definitely make the point about what you would be losing and that perhaps their estimates are na├»ve.

This Call to Action consists of three parts.  The first part (Part I) is preparing a comment. Part II described how you make the comment (Part IIA contains instructions on how to comment to FDA and Part IIB contains instructions on how to comment to OMB/OIRA--both are necessary). Part III asks you to share this Call to Action with others.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Call to Action! North Carolina Bill would Impose a Separate "Sin" Tax on "Vapor Products"

UPDATE 6-1-14:  The North Carolina Call to Action has been concluded.  Legislators in North Carolina regrettably decided to burden North Carolinians with a new tax.  Fortunately, the tax is relatively modest, but the precedent of any additional tax on these incredibly low-risk, potentially life-saving products is a step in the wrong direction.

UPDATE 5-27-14:  The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to consider HB 1050 TODAY. Please see the information contained in the 5-23-14 update below and make your voices heard.

UPDATE 5-23-14:  Having raced through the House, the bill is now in the Senate Finance Committee.  It is IMPERATIVE that vapers and harm reduction advocates act IMMEDIATELY to express strong opposition to this sin tax.  It is possible that it will pass out of committee (and on to the full senate) as early as Tuesday, May 27th, 2014.

A new CQ Roll Call Campaign has been created to combat efforts by RJ Reynolds and Lorillard to impose a tax that will disproportionately impact their competition and that we, the consumers, will ultimately pay.

THIS LINK will take you to the email campaign directed at the members of the Senate Finance Committee.   ALL North Carolina residents can participate, even if you do not have a senator on that committee, because emails are also being sent to the Governor and Lieutenant Governor.  Note that the beginning and end of your email are provided, and you can add your personal message in the middle.  "Talking points" are provided to highlight some of the issues you may wish to address in your personal message.

THIS LINK will take you to the phone campaign directed at members of the Senate Finance Committee.  Please input your personal information to see if your senator is a member of that committee and, if he/she is, take a moment to call and express your opposition.

Please take five minutes of your time to let your elected officials know that it is NOT acceptable to impose a sin tax on a product that stands to save millions of lives.


RJ Reynolds is at it again.  Last year, they introduced a tax on e-cigarettes in Oklahoma, and we beat them back.  This year, they managed to get a tax on "vapor products" introduced in North Carolina. (See HB 1050, p. 51)  Their idea is to get a separate tax on the books that isn't particularly onerous in hopes of preempting efforts to tax e-cigarettes at some of the draconian rates suggested by other states (like the tax we beat back in Washington State earlier this year).

RJ Reynolds Vice President David Powers was quoted as saying,  “I promise you, you’ve never heard me or anyone in any other industry stand up and ask for their products to be taxed, but yes, ma'am, we are (asking to be taxed).”(Not exactly true given they tried pretty much the exact same thing last year in Oklahoma.) Lorillard agrees:  "Gregg Perry, a spokesman for Lorillard Inc., said the company supports the e-cig excise tax proposal. Lorillard’s blu eCigs product is among the top-two brands in the United States."

Of course, the tobacco companies don't mind a "modest" sin tax, because that tax is paid by consumers, not the tobacco companies. But once we agree to a "sin tax" in any amount, we're going to be fighting efforts to increase that tax each and every year, as evidenced by this statement:  Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, called the proposed 5 cent tax a "good place to start," but he added that lawmakers may  need to consider raising it in coming years as the state budget begins to lose revenue from people making the switch from traditional to electronic cigarettes.

And that's the problem . . . lost revenues and the state's dependency on tobacco "sin taxes."  But e-cigarettes, estimated to be 99% less hazardous than smoking, shouldn't be subject to a "sin tax." Anything more than a general sales tax applicable to consumer goods sends the wrong message.  RJR says that a tax is inevitable, so it wants the tax to be a reasonable one.  Our response is that e-cigarettes are already taxed (general sales tax).

HB 1050 was introduced on May 14th, 2014, and was referred to the House Finance Committee, where it received a favorable report on May 15th.  It has been placed on the House Calendar for May 20th, where it will be considered by the full House.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Call to Action! Missouri Vapers, Ask Governor Nixon to Sign SB 841, Common-Sense Ban on Sales to Minors

We need Missouri vapers to immediately contact Governor Jay Nixon’s office and ask him to sign Senate Bill 841. 

After the Missouri Legislature overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 841, we need you to contact Governor Jay Nixon to encourage him to sign this important legislation that will (1) prohibit minors from purchasing vapor products (e-cigarettes) and (2) clarify that vapor products are not subject to the same taxation or regulation as combustible cigarettes.  

CASAA supports Senate Bill 841 and has worked to achieve passage of this common-sense regulation in the Missouri House and Senate.  Senate Bill 841 passed the Senate by a vote of 27-4, with 20 of the 22 voting Republicans supporting this Bill and 7 of the 9 voting Democrats supporting this Bill.  Senate Bill 841 passed the House by a vote of 127-19, with 96 of the 102 voting Republicans supporting this Bill and 31 of the 44 voting Democrats supporting this Bill.

Your story must be heard so that Governor Nixon supports this important legislation that was passed by your democratically elected representatives.  

Governor Nixon is undoubtedly subject to pressure from “public health” organizations that inexplicably oppose these potentially lifesaving products. But we cannot allow this misinformation campaign to overshadow our true success stories and the work of our Legislature. 

We need your support to make sure that Governor Nixon understands the importance of supporting this legislation. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

CASAA Submission to U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Regarding 5-15-14 Hearing on E-Cigarettes

To:          Members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee

From:    The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association

Re:         May 15, 2014 Hearing on E-Cigarettes

Date:     May 14, 2014

The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA)[1] has serious concerns about the hearing involving e-cigarettes scheduled for Thursday, May 15th. Specifically, we believe that inviting Dr. McAfee and Mr. Zeller as the sole witnesses will not offer well-rounded or even completely accurate information.

CASAA asks for your help in ensuring that the Senate hearing is not simply a platform for CDC and FDA to present misinformation, unchallenged.

Both CDC and FDA have demonstrated they are intent on reducing the availability, quality, and use of e-cigarettes. They are apparently unconcerned that e-cigarettes have proven to be an effective method for hundreds of thousands of American smokers to quit smoking, substituting an alternative that is estimated to be 99% less harmful than smoking. Often this substitution worked for them after every other method of quitting smoking failed. Indeed, these agencies are willing to mislead the American public into believing that e-cigarettes are highly hazardous and are not helping people quit. They have repeatedly presented misleading interpretations of data and are paying to have misleading data created. There have been hundreds of analyses written that show how these agencies have systematically misled the American people, and we expect they will attempt to do the same to Congress.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

First Call to Action for FDA Proposed Regulations - Consumer Request for an Extension of Comment Period

On Thursday, May 8th, CASAA released the Overview of its Action Plan Regarding Proposed FDA Regulations.  This is the first of several Calls to Action anticipated in CASAA's Action Plan.   (You will recall from the Action Plan that we are not going to publish our suggestions for substantive comments until a few weeks before the deadline, and we urge consumers to wait until then to offer substantive comment.)

FDA, which took more than three years to issue its 241-page Proposed Regulation (and accompanying 81-page regulatory impact analysis), has given us a mere 75 days to comment. While responding in that timeframe is challenging under any circumstances, the FDA has also posed, by our count, 99 requests for information about THR products (this does not include repeat questions or questions specifically pertaining to cigars). Given the length of time FDA has taken to release the proposed regulations, the massive amount of information FDA is requesting, the length of the document itself, and the devastating impact these regulations will have on a product that is estimated to be approximately 99% less hazardous than combustibles, the 75-day comment period is grossly inadequate.

The First Call to Action is for CONSUMERS to request a 105-day extension of the comment period, requesting a total of 180 days to make comments.  We understand that SFATA, AEMSA, and other industry groups will be providing similar guidance for vendors and manufacturers.

We have prepared a suggested letter--which we encourage you to edit to accurately reflect your views and circumstances--along with instructions on how to request the extension. (Please note that submitting this request will not prevent you from later offering a substantive comment, and should not affect your subsequent comment in any way.)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Overview of CASAA's Action Plan Regarding Proposed FDA Regulations

NOTE: To keep up on CASAA Calls to Action and other posts regarding the FDA, please click and bookmark this link: FDA Alerts and Calls to Action

In April 2014, FDA released its proposed regulation attempting to exert regulatory authority over e-cigarettes as tobacco products. To better understand the import of these regulations, please see our summary of the what and why of the deeming regulation and CASAA’s preliminary analysis of proposed regulations.

Early on, we asked CASAA members to be patient and to refrain from making formal comments (you are allowed to submit more than one comment) about the proposed regulations until CASAA leadership  had sufficient time to review the regulations and offer guidance. The membership has been patient at a time when every instinct we have is to react, do something -- do anything! -- because we know that these regulations, if enacted in anything remotely resembling their current form, will decimate the industry and destroy the diversity in the marketplace. And, of course, it's the diversity in the marketplace, the ability of customers to customize the experience, that  makes this product such an extraordinarily effective alternative to smoking. There is a very real possibility that such regulations would eliminate the entire legal market for e-cigarettes.

CASAA's Basic Background for Understanding FDA Regulation of E-Cigarettes

8 May 2014

CASAA’s Basic Background for Understanding FDA Regulation of E-Cigarettes

FDA’s release of the draft deeming regulations has caused an explosion of interest in the law and politics relating to e-cigarettes among those who have not followed the topic previously.  Some are new to the entire world of vaping-related chatter, while others have been immersed in the social media but have never understood the governance side.  Here are some very basic facts for getting up to speed and trying to take effective action.

  • In 2010, a federal court ruled that FDA could not regulate e-cigarettes as medicines unless therapeutic claims were being made in marketing.  It suggested that the FDA had the option of asserting authority over them as tobacco products.  (Contrary to how it is sometimes interpreted, the ruling did not give FDA that authority directly, nor did it say they had to take it.) That assertion of authority is what is happening now.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Call to Action! Vermont Bill Would Impose Massive 92% E-Cigarette Tax


UPDATE 5/6/14:  HB 884 is now pending before the Revenue Committee (joint committee with members of both the Vermont House and Senate).  Members of the Vermont House are strongly in favor of the tax, but both the Senate and Governor Peter Shumlin have stated that they are concerned that the tax is a bad idea.

We need vapers to immediately contact the below members and Governor.

Members of the Vermont Revenue Conference Committee need to hear true life stories about vaping from Vermont residents.  As a consumer of electronic cigarettes, you know better than most that these products are NOTHING like combustible cigarettes and that cost and full access to them are important to you.  YOUR story must be heard by the legislators to make positive change, so make sure your voice is heard!

Please consider taking a few minutes to reach out to the members of the Vermont Legislature and the Governor by phone or e-mail. Please RESPECTFULLY but firmly tell the members in these or your own words that:

  • Please vote NO on any tax on vapor products (such as electronic cigarettes), especially the massive 92% tax proposed in HB 884
  • Vapor products are only currently subject to Vermont sales tax, and therefore enactment of this bill would constitute a 1500% tax hike.
  • Passage of such a huge tax will just lead people in Vermont to purchase their vapor products online or out-of-state, where neither the sales tax nor the tobacco tax will be paid.
  • Electronic cigarettes are smoke-free, and often nicotine-free, and are approximately 99% less hazardous than smoking. There is absolutely no justification for subjecting them to a "sin tax."
  • Tell your personal story on how switching to an e-cigarette has changed your life or the life of someone you love.  
  • This tax will discourage smokers from switching to electronic cigarettes and decimate small electronic cigarette businesses in Vermont that are growing and creating jobs.   
  • Let them know where in Vermont you live.

Comma delimited email list (be sure to call Governor Shumlin as well): tashe@leg.state.vt.us, mmacdonald@leg.state.vt.us, kjmbjm@aol.com, jcampbell@leg.state.vt.us, shapv@aol.com, janetancel@earthlink.net, dsharpe@leg.state.vt.us

Governor Peter Shumlin, 802-828-3333, contact form
Senator Tim Ashe (Chittenden District), Senate Chair, tashe@leg.state.vt.us
Senator Mark A. MacDonald (Orange District), Vice-Chair, mmacdonald@leg.state.vt.us
Senator Kevin Mullin (Rutland District), kjmbjm@aol.com
Senate President John Campbell, 802-828-3806, JCampbell@leg.state.vt.us
Rep. Shap Smith, 802-828-2245,  shapv@aol.com
Rep. Janet Ancel (Plainfield, Marshfield, Calais), House Chair, janetancel@earthlink.net
Rep. David Sharp (Bristol), 802-828-2231, dsharpe@leg.state.vt.us
Rep. Bill Johnson (Essex, Caledonia, Orleans), 802-277-8329

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Call to Action! FOUR New York State Bills Threaten Access and Use by Adult Consumers - CONSOLIDATED Call to Action (CONCLUDED)

UPDATE 6-20-14: New York State vapers and harm reduction advocates can breath a brief, yet deserved, sigh of relief.  The 2014 legislative session has concluded for the year and no anti-vaping legislation has passed.

Although this concludes the NY State Calls to Action (favorably), advocates should remain vigilant in the "off season".  Please continue to make connections with lawmakers (state & local) and help educate them as to the benefits of smoke free products like e-cigarettes.

Thank You!