Active vigilance. Vigilance appears to be the name of the game in California. For the past year, the California Smoke Free Organization has been fully involved in the political landscape in Sacramento with our firm’s engagement on both the regulatory and legislative fronts.
The primary investment of time and effort in 2017 went into shaping the regulatory implementation of Prop 56 (passed by California voters in November 2016). As approved, Prop 56 would summarily tax e-cigarettes and so it was important that the Board of Equalization, the state authority charged with creating the taxing scheme, have a complete and accurate picture of the vaping industry. With a complex system of retailers, device and products manufacturers and distributors – it was imperative that BOE staff and members fully understand how their proposed taxing plans would impact the vaping industry and CSFO members, specifically. Our team had positive outcomes in ensuring the least costly implementation on the industry.
During the first year of California’s two-year legislative cycle (2017-18), the progressive California legislature dealt with tobacco smoking bills in public housing and state coastal beaches and parks, which improperly folded in vaping products. In the end, we had a positive outcome with the Governor vetoing bills dealing with smoking on coastal beaches and parks noting, “If people can’t smoke even on a deserted beach, where can they? There must be some limit to the coercive power of government.” The Governor’s stance on government overreach may prove to be useful to further our arguments on vaping products. Bills dealing with public housing became two-year bills that will be dealt with in early 2018.
Equally notable, the vaping industry, well represented by CSFO members, conducted a successful lobby day during August 2017. CSFO met its objectives of increasing the organization’s profile within the Capitol and becoming recognized as a go-to resource on vaping issues. But most importantly, it provided an opportunity for members to convey accurate information on non-tobacco alternatives, economic impacts, etc. to key members and staff of the legislature.
For 2018, CSFO and Fernández Government Solutions will remain vigilant so that vaping products are not indiscriminately bundled with tobacco products. Based on what we’ve seen at the local communities’ level and other parts of the country, bills dealing with issues of labeling and flavoring of e-cigarette products will likely be introduced. Statewide implementation of harmful bills – especially flavor bans – would decimate the vaping industry in California. That is why sustained involvement with key figures in the legislature will be a top priority – including both Senate and Assembly health committee chairs, members and consultants.
This ongoing involvement also includes CSFO members visiting their local legislative district offices to build and sustain relationships and ensure accurate information – differentiation with tobacco products is crucial to developing pro e-cigarette arguments. Members can additionally participate in strategic healthy community efforts and partnerships, etc. In order to achieve these objectives and keep the industry thriving, the CSFO is welcoming all vaping companies in the state of California, from manufacturers and distributors, to retailers. Go to www.californiasmokefreeorganization.org and make the voice of your business heard.
Soyla Fernández founded Fernández Government Solutions LLC in 2004. Her successful firm is experienced in the development of political and legislative strategies to implement effective advocacy programs for corporate and public sector clients. As a former consultant to the legislature and the executive branch, Ms. Fernández is knowledgeable in a variety of political, policy, and budget issues.