The Vapor Technology Association has launched a program for individual memberships.
By VV Staff
The vapor industry’s fight for survival has only just begun. While the deadline for premarket tobacco product applications (PMTAs) has passed, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved an e-liquid-based electronic nicotine-delivery system (ENDS).
Several states have passed flavor bans and many more are considering the action even as studies show youth use declining. On the federal level, several lawmakers have proposed flavor bans as well as outright bans on all vapor products. Vapor industry experts say they expect these regulatory actions to continue to burden the marketplace for some time.
For the voices of the industry to be heard by lawmakers, the vapor industry depends on several advocacy groups. One of the largest groups—which has also effectively lobbied at the federal and state levels—is the Vapor Technology Association (VTA). Traditionally, however, the VTA has only allowed business owners to serve as members. That rule has now changed. Just moments after the PMTA deadline passed, the VTA launched its first-ever individual membership program.
“By welcoming Individual members, VTA’s board has recognized the critical importance of amplifying the millions of voices for vaping—former smokers who have turned to vapor products on their journey to quit smoking—as well as for the business owners who serve them,” says VTA Executive Director Tony Abboud. “This new membership will take our unified fight to defend vapor to the next level by combining the power of consumers and businesses into the largest vapor advocacy force in the country.”
The individual membership program is designed to engage more vapers and vape advocates in the VTA’s mission to save the vapor industry, according to Abboud. The program is part of the organization’s “Voices for Vaping” initiative that VTA launched in 2018 to amplify the voices for vaping in defense of vapor products.
“Now, VTA is taking the fight to the next level by combining the power of businesses and consumers into the strongest vapor advocacy association defending your right to vape and sell vapor products,” says Abboud. “This membership will elevate the voices of vapers and those individuals who believe in vaping and engage them in the fight with access to cutting-edge advocacy tools.”
Consumers have always been a part of vapor advocacy. It’s the customer’s lives that are saved when they switch to vapor products from combustible tobacco. “We’ve always lauded the collective power of the vapor community,” says Abboud. “Our most successful battles have been fought hand in hand with consumers, and now we want to bring together the multitude of voices that use vapor products to maximize our impact, especially as highly coordinated critics continue their offensive against vapers and the industry.”
The cost of a VTA individual membership is $25 a year. Upon joining VTA, a recent press release states that individual members will benefit by joining “sophisticated and established lobbying efforts to protect their right to vape. “VTA has lobbied in Washington, D.C., for the past five years and, in the past two years, VTA lobbied in 40 state capitals defending vapor,” the release states. “The impact of businesses and individual consumers fighting side by side guided by professional lobbying teams cannot be overstated.”
Members will also receive up-to-date information on all things vapor, participate in successful vapor advocacy campaigns, access advanced technology to engage with legislators and local media and receive discounts on vapor products at participating stores across the country. “VTA believes that consumers—the actual Voices for Vaping—will make all the difference in the ongoing fight to save vapor. Knowing that ‘all politics is local,’ VTA has invested in new technology that will link your voice directly with media in your community,” according to the release.
To help in this effort, the VTA offers online advocacy software that makes it easy for consumers to connect with their legislators by signing petitions, sending emails and getting their message to them on Twitter and Facebook. “More importantly, because all politics is local, VTA now has software that makes it easier for individual consumers to tell their personalized stories in the form of letters to editor so that they can be submitted to all the local news outlets of their choosing in one shot,” explains Abboud. “This tool will allow coordinated letter-to-the-editor campaigns rivaling those of the highly funded opponents of vaping.”
Flavors have long been important to retailers, distributors and consumers. After joining the VTA online, new members will receive a welcome email that states, “The commitment of our board of directors to defending flavors is unmatched. We are dedicated to preserving a diverse industry filled with small businesses selling a variety of the flavors that are being demanded by adults like you.”
When President Donald Trump announced he would be banning flavors in all vapor products last year, the VTA responded by crafting and funding a successful advocacy campaign, according to Abboud. The campaign involved a discrete digital campaign, two national television advertisements defending flavors and the industry, and the polling of individual vaping consumers.
“[The campaign] framed the issue clearly for the president that vapers overwhelmingly opposed flavor bans and overwhelmingly support raising the age to smoke and vape. As a result of this campaign, [the] VTA was invited to the White House to share with President Trump the important role flavored e-cigarettes played in helping adults quit and stay away from combustible cigarettes,” says Abboud. “Without [the] VTA’s campaign, it is safe to say [that] the White House would not have reversed course and preserved the open-system flavored e-liquids relied on by vapers throughout the U.S.”
Abboud told Vapor Voice that, earlier this month, the VTA and its members (including new individual members) successfully obtained the first gubernatorial veto of a flavor ban in Florida. “Immediately after the bill passed the state legislature in March, the VTA began a multimedia veto campaign strategy that involved the VapersSayVeto call to action site, a television advertisement directed at the governor, a social media drumbeat, and professional economic analysis from economist John Dunham & Associates,” says Abboud. “[The] VTA’s vapers and vapor businesses, along with the Florida Smoke Free Association’s vapers and vapor businesses, presented an unrelenting united front against the ban, educating Governor DeSantis on its impacts and ultimately influencing his decision to veto.”
The VTA has a large variety of industry players as members. These include numerous state associations, manufacturers, distributors and retail stores. Those members have played an active role in spreading the word about the new program. “[They are] encouraging the consumers they interact with on a regular basis to defend their right to vape by becoming Individual members,” Abboud says. “Already, we’re seeing high levels of engagement and a growing VTA community that will render us stronger for whatever challenges lie ahead.”
Abboud says that as a bonus to individual consumers who join the VTA, some retail stores are offering discounts. “Over 200 stores across the country have signed up to participate and offer discounts to VTA individual members. Check with your local shops or check out our website for shops near you to see who is participating,” he says. “VTA has the largest network of vape shop members, but any store can sign up to participate.”