Dear BEAA Members,
I wanted to write a short note to bring the membership up to date on where we are with the process of dealing with the FDA regulations. As all of you are aware the FDA took an unprecedented step in changing the definition of tobacco to include vapor and e-cigarettes, in an effort to increase the regulatory burdens on our industry. Many of you have asked what steps, as an association, we are taking to combat this overreach by the Federal Government. As you may already know other vapor businesses and associations have been preparing for these regulations for months and are already filing law suits. 3 weeks ago, your Board, met with an attorney about our options, and we decided by a unanimous vote to join our colleagues around the country and sue the FDA.
The BEAA has retained Montgomery Attorney, Joe Hubbard, to sue the FDA and enjoin these regulations before they are implemented. Our plan is to coordinate our litigation with the other vapor entities filing suit. Because Alabama’s courts are the best venue for such an action, the direction of these cases will depend heavily on what we are able to accomplish in court. We are in the process of preparing the paperwork to file suit in the Middle Alabama District. We currently have 2 BEAA members with businesses organized in the middle district that have agreed to be become a plaintiff. Mr. Hubbard requested a minimum of 2 plaintiffs but would like as many as possible. The middle district consists of the following counties; Autauga, Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Chambers, Chilton, Coffee, Coosa, Covington, Crenshaw, Dale, Elmore, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Montgomery, Pike, Randolph, Russell &Tallapoosa. We welcome any upstanding vapor related businesses located in this district to be added to the plaintiff list. Plaintiff must be a BEAA member in good standing to participate in this action.
We have negotiated a deal with Mr. Hubbard to proceed through 3 phases of the law suit with phase 1 being paid in full and future phases being funded as we proceed. Over the next few weeks, look for updates as we progress with the filing of this law suit.
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The Breathe Easier Alliance of Alabama, also known at the BEAA, strongly opposes industry-killing regulations that were proposed by the FDA last week. The federal agency handed down nearly 500 pages of proposed rules and changes to existing rules that, if enacted, would force hundreds of Alabama business owners to shut their doors.
The FDA proposal would redefine the word “tobacco” to include items that do not contain any tobacco, including vape and electronic cigarette products. The proposal would also require small business owners to spend up to $1 million per product to complete a proposed FDA application process. Because the vast majority of vape stores are independently owned small businesses, it is widely believed that such requirements would force the overwhelming majority of these entrepreneurs into bankruptcy and would put thousands of people who are currently employed in the industry out of work.
“We firmly believe that the FDA’s proposed regulations fly in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence and are a slap in the face to small business owners across this country,” BEAA President Scott Eichelberger explained “The use of vape products and electronic cigarettes have been the most important innovations as a safer alternative to the use of combustible tobacco products. These products are being used by millions of people in almost every civilized country in the world with success rates higher than any similar products available in the marketplace today”. Renowned medical organizations from the Royal College of Physicians to the Mayo Clinic recognize the positive impact that these products are having, but the United States government is issuing regulations that would make it almost impossible for the companies that manufacture and sell these products to continue to operate.”
The BEAA Board of Directors voted unanimously on 5/10/2016 to pursue an aggressive legislative strategy to combat the FDA’s proposed regulations and to retain Montgomery, Alabama attorney Joe Hubbard in order to pursue any and all possible legal options available to the association and its members. Specific details regarding legal action is expected in the coming weeks.
The Breathe Easier Alliance of Alabama is comprised of more than 50 Alabama based vape retailers and manufacturers with a total membership well over 100. The BEAA was founded in 2015.
Dear BEAA business and consumer members;
We want to thank you for your patience over the last few days as we understand everyone’s anxiety with this matter. We have been working diligently since last Thursday to propose an educated plan of action moving forward.
The Breathe Easier Alliance of Alabama, also known at the BEAA, strongly opposes industry-killing regulations that were proposed by the FDA last week. The federal agency handed down nearly 500 pages of rules and changes to existing rules, effective on August 8th, 2016, will force hundreds of Alabama business owners to eventually shut their doors.
The FDA proposal would redefine the word “tobacco” to include items that do not contain any tobacco, including vapor and electronic cigarette products. The proposal would also require small business owners to spend upwards of $1 million per product to complete a proposed FDA application process. Because the vast majority of vape stores are independently owned small businesses, it is widely believed that such requirements would force the overwhelming majority of these entrepreneurs into bankruptcy and would put thousands of people who are currently employed in the industry out of work.
The BEAA Board of Directors voted unanimously yesterday to pursue an aggressive legislative strategy to combat the FDA’s proposed regulations and to retain Montgomery attorney Joe Hubbard in order to pursue any and all possible legal options available to the association and its members. Specific details regarding legal action is expected in the coming weeks.
Legislative and grassroots action will include, but not be limited to:
• BEAA will issue a press release opposing the proposed FDA regulations.
• Talk radio appearances will be scheduled across the state to garner support for our cause with the public.
• We will submit op-ed pieces on behalf of the BEAA and its members to major newspapers.
• We will begin to give presentations and speeches to non-vape affiliated groups who are likely to support our cause.
• We will distribute fact sheets and updates on the progress regularly to members via email and social media.
• We will launch a text to messaging initiative which will allow us to send action alert text messages to members throughout this process.
• We will launch a letter signing and signage drive in all member stores.
• We will launch a coordinated phone your congressional rep and senator drive.
• Our lobbyist will be meeting with our Congressmen and Senators throughout the process.
The Breathe Easier Alliance of Alabama is comprised of more than 100 Alabama based vapor related retailers, manufacturers and consumers. The BEAA was founded in 2015 as a trade association uniting businesses and consumers for fair legislation at the State and Local level. With the recent regulations issued by the FDA we will be focusing our efforts on behalf of our members on National level as well as monitoring State and Local activity.
Scott Eichelberger – BEAA President
Dear BEAA Members:
The BEAA is coming up on its 1 year anniversary, and I wanted to take this opportunity to update and thank everyone for an incredible year. We should all be proud that we came together to protect our industry in Alabama. Our funds, time, resources, and presence were able to defeat a state tax and two in-store vape bans in major municipalities. In doing so, we educated lawmakers about our great industry and elevated the discussion by bringing science, public health and financial data to the table. Through our efforts and physical presence, we also established a name for ourselves which will serve us well as we move forward.
Now we have to be stronger this year. The state legislature is currently in session, so we have to be ready for anything. Also, if any member is experiencing an issue locally, please contact us immediately.
Advocacy groups like ours are crucial to the success of our businesses, because we have seen these groups directly guard against laws that would have ruined businesses. Being a part of a trade organization is an accepted investment for almost all business types. In our industry it’s absolutely vital. We have seen states suffer (Arkansas) who were not organized.
By now, you should have received your packet containing stickers, brochures, and cards with all our contact info on them. We are counting on your renewal and involvement again this year. If you would like to be more involved personally, keep in mind we are having a big meeting (3/13/16) and board position elections over the next couple of weeks (see below for more details).
We are receiving many new member requests lately. We are also actively recruiting new members to join. Here’s what we’re telling them:
Joining the BEAA is like having Political Insurance and Representation.
The price of a BEAA membership is total bargain for being part of a group of aligned businesses who have each others’ backs. Also, a lobbyist cannot technically represent a business which is not a member of the organization that has filed with the Ethics Commission, so if your store was by itself in a municipality that decided to ban vaping in all public spaces (including ALL businesses), you wouldn’t have anyone to help you fight that.
2015 in Alabama saw state taxes and local ordinances threaten our operations, but our group (BEAA) worked to kill each piece of legislation. These local ordinances which ban vaping (along with smoking) in public spaces are becoming more and more frequent. Direct action from the BEAA positively affected the results of two proposed bans in the Homewood and Trussville areas of Birmingham.
BEAA members stay engaged, are kept in the loop, and are made aware of the steps leadership and our lobbyist are taking as they happen. Being organized and unified as a group of over 3 dozen stores gives us the power to elicit rapid, blanket engagement/response from our combined staffs and customer bases should a situation arise requiring individual action (signatures, posting, sharing, public hearing attendance, survey completion, FDA comments, etc).
Show your Leadership. Establish your Reputation.
It’s important to have a liaison/manager at each store tuned into the legislative climate (city/state/national levels) and to be responsible for posting/sharing BEAA calls-to-action and collecting petition signatures, etc. There are many vape “community groups” (most have Facebook pages) who help some in these advocacy call-to-action efforts, but who also are prone to distractions and unproductive discussions. Become a beacon of truth for your customers. Be a go-to source in your area for direction on action to combat impending legislation.
Membership into SFATA and the state groups gives you voting rights for decisions steering the direction of the organization.
Be able to tout 100% commitment to all aspects of the industry you work in. Become a go-to company for news about advocacy activity.
Joining the BEAA is healthy for your Marketing.
Being linked (and reciprocally linking) on one another’s vape-related websites is wonderful for SEO.
Issues going on locally or federally are helpful in generating social media content. The conversations are healthy. I’ve noticed that these close scrapes with legislation actually have positive affects on sales. They promote positive rapport and camaraderie amongst customers and staff, thus customer loyalty. Conversely, ignorance of ongoing issues can hurt you. (Example: A store can’t make the mistake of posting a “salesy” Facebook post, “Hey check out this new mod” when meanwhile, the other stores are sharing/posting an important call-to-action that everyone should be focused on.)
In non-crisis mode, the BEAA is focused on continued public education by way of strategic media, data collection, and positive study dissemination. This also generates good ongoing social media content and positive association for members.
Joining the BEAA is positive for your Public Relations.
In the face of negative publicity or legislation, associating with an advocacy/trade group gives you good talking points and the ability to shift the story to the advocacy group and away from your actual business location.
Your store will have a good perception within the vape community if vapers can see you are involved in advocacy. Good “street cred.”
It is strongly recommended that each member business have a dedicated person (jf different from owner) in your business who can oversee the membership and monitor our activities, calls-to-action, etc.
OTHER IMPORTANT THINGS:
Many of you have asked about our relationship with SFATA. The BEAA is in close contact with SFATA due to the fact that many members are also members of SFATA at the national level. At this time there is no official SFATA Alabama state chapter formed. This is something some members are considering/weighing independently of the BEAA, however the BEAA is able to help to facilitate. We can certainly discuss this topic more at the upcoming meeting and on the BEAA Member Facebook page.
Angi Stalnaker has done a highly professional job for us over the last year with life-saving results, and she is interested in working with us again. Our plan is to renew our contract with her firm this month.
Tax exemption for memberships is our goal this year. Our legal team is guiding us through the paperwork for 501-c6 non-profit status.
We are working to have it set up so that members can pay in automatic monthly installments should they choose.
Members of the BEAA Board have twice visited Washington, D.C. along with advocacy representatives from neighboring states (also SFATA members) to attend talks, meet with the OMB, and get face time with Senator Sessions’ staff and other key officials, while officially introducing the BEAA and presenting documentation about the financial and legal realities of the vape industry in our state. These efforts in conjunction with our ongoing lobbying efforts have resulted in securing an Alabama co-sponsor for HB-2058.
Electronic ELECTIONS 3/6/16.
Monday 2-15-16 we will send out instructions for nominating people for BEAA board positions. If you are looking to get involved and/or take a BOARD MEMBER POSITION. . . NOW IS THE TIME. The voting date will be 3-7-16 (a week before the meeting). Voting will done electronically.
BIG Meeting 3/13/16.
This date marks the one year anniversary of the BEAA’s formation. Put this date on your calendars to meet in Birmingham at 2pm on Sunday, 3/13/16. Location TO BE DETERMINED.
As you know, my business partner and I sold our operations to Vapor Corp back in November. Vapor Corp is a retail chain based in Florida operating under the name “The Vape Store.” To protect their interests, Vapor Corp of course plans to remain engaged in advocacy at the state and national levels. You will find good/helpful contacts at Vapor Corp. After March 13, I will no longer be directly associated with the BEAA, but everyone knows they can call if my help is needed.
It has been a true honor and pleasure working with such a fun and dedicated group of entrepreneur/activists. Thank you for letting me serve as president the first year. We can be proud that we came together, got the job done, and established something that will last. I look forward to seeing the BEAA accomplish much more, and hopefully while not under fire, this year.
KEEP FIGHTING FOR VAPE.
This industry is saving lives, generating revenue, employing a lot of people, creating entrepreneurs, and boosting innovation. Saving lives, though. That’s all you need. Keep fighting for it. It’s a wonderfully revolutionary industry that will completely prove itself soon.