Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Support Businesses that Support Advocacy

Do You Support Businesses that Support Advocacy?

CASAA members have tremendous power to influence legislation, public perception, and the quality of products on the market. While many consumers  are active in advocating in the legislative arena and working diligently to change public perception, it is shocking how little thought we sometimes give to the businesses where we spend our dollars.

It is vitally important that businesses step up to the plate and advocate for the diverse industry that we, the consumers, rely upon.  And, in turn, we need to exercise the power of our pocketbooks and make our purchases from businesses that support advocacy and do not push for laws and regulations that are bad for consumers.

Advocacy takes many forms and some may not be listed here, but the following are some of the more important actions that CASAA members should insist their vendors be involved in to stand up for the interests of the consumer -- and their own future profits, too. Of course, no business could ever do all or even most of these. But when deciding where to spend your vaping dollars, ask if your vendors do at least some of the following:
  • Does the vendor provide to its customers any information from or about CASAA?
  • Does the vendor participate meaningfully in state and local legislative matters?
  • Is the vendor conducting business in a reputable and professional manner? (Failure to do so seriously undermines advocacy efforts.)
  • Does the vendor belong to a recognized industry organization?

Continue reading below for more details on these questions and how you can make a significant difference just by how and where you choose to spend your money!

Does the vendor provide to its customers any information from or about CASAA?

When individuals join CASAA, they become plugged into an information network, enabling them to become effective advocates themselves. Plus, with each new member, CASAA grows in strength, credibility, and influence--all of which is necessary for us to continue to effectively represent the interests of consumers.

There is no reason why vendors should be reluctant to inform their customers about CASAA. Membership is free, and since CASAA’s website contains no advertisements or endorsements of any vendors, there is nothing that would drive business to competitors. Moreover, as a nonprofit consumer organization, CASAA is in a unique position to tell the truth about the health benefits associated with e-cigarette use. (Vendors are prohibited by law from making health claims in marketing.) CASAA is an excellent source of information for consumers, especially information that businesses are prohibited from offering.

Vendors can provide CASAA information to customers in many ways: 
  • Brick-and-mortar stores can display CASAA vendor kits, flyers, “We Support CASAA” window decals, and informational literature, all of which can either be purchased online (bit.ly/casaavendorkit) for just the cost of materials or downloaded (bit.ly/casaaprintmaterial) for free and printed.
  • All vendors -- especially online vendors who cannot direct customers to display material -- can include CASAA cards, decals or pamphlets in each order (bit.ly/casaastore).
  • Include a “We Support CASAA” graphic (with link to www.CASAA.org) on the business’s website (bit.ly/wesupportcasaa).

Does the vendor participate meaningfully in state and local legislative matters?

If you live in a state that has had a CASAA Call to Action (bit.ly/casaactabystate), was information about that legislative threat communicated to you by the vendor? Did the vendor show up at the hearing personally or arrange meetings with their representatives? Local small businesses can have a lot of influence on local lawmakers.

We know that people are busy, and vendors have businesses to run. But with that said, if everyone is too busy to testify at hearings or to otherwise get involved in the legislative process, then we will have no hope of defeating bad legislation.

Likewise, it is important for businesses to pass along information to their customers about these threats. Not everyone is plugged into the advocacy network, and businesses need to do their part to share information with their customers and/or let customers know about CASAA.

Does the vendor understand and oppose bad laws and regulations that negatively impact their customers? Examples include:
  • Public use bans.
  • Tobacco licensing requirements.
  • Online sales bans and overly restrictive sales/delivery requirements.
  • Flavor bans.
  • Bans or restrictions on competing products that they don’t sell.
  • Expensive and burdensome manufacturing regulations.

 Is the vendor conducting business in a reputable and professional manner?

This is vital to winning the battle of public opinion and is an important part of advocacy. Examples include:
  • No sales to minors, with strong store policies ensuring underage sales will not occur. (This should be the case even in the few states where sales to minors have not yet been banned.)
  • Liquids in child-resistant packaging.
  • Labels should be informative, containing nicotine strength, ingredients (including PG/VG ratios), appropriate warnings about keeping the product out of the hands of children, and should bear the name and address (or website) of the manufacturer. (Vendors should be aware of current and proposed state labeling requirements such as, for example, California Prop 65.)

Does the vendor belong to a recognized industry organization?

Effective industry organizations collect dues or donations from business members and use that money for, among other things, political action and public relations campaigns. While businesses can be involved in advocacy directly (particularly at the local level) without membership in an industry group, the fact is that organized resistance to the onslaught of anti-e-cigarette legislation and media is vitally necessary, and industry groups—if they have sufficient support from the business community in terms of money and energy—are uniquely equipped to address these issues.

CASAA recognizes the value of, and works cooperatively with, various recognized industry advocacy groups, including SFATA, AVA, and VISTA. In addition, there are many state-level industry groups that have become active in advocacy efforts that deserve the support of businesses in that state.

Ask your vendors if they belong to any industry or advocacy groups. At the very least, they should, as individuals, be registered members of CASAA and be receiving our Calls to Action. It’s free and only takes a couple of minutes to sign up! (CASAA has no business memberships, but is open to all individuals.)

For more information on how you (and the businesses you buy from) can be a more effective advocate for CASAA, please visit the “How You Can Help” page under the “Get Involved” tab at casaa.org.


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