SB-140: What You Might Have Missed
It’s not uncommon for those in the vape industry to work late into the night and early morning. We find that these are the hours when interruptions are low and to-do lists tackled. For us, Wednesday, July 8 was one of those days that never started, it was just a continuation of the previous night. Instead of sleep, we, along with Juni Banico of E-Liq Cube, spent the night prior filled with last minute inquiries to join our trip and making preparations for the next twelve hours.
We received word on June 19 that Senator Mark Leno’s SB-140 would be heard by the Committee on Governmental Organization (GO) on July 8 in Sacramento. About a week later, Cuttwood, a Southern California based eliquid manufacturer, committed a charter bus to bring vapers from southern California to Sacramento. Our challenge was to ensure that the bus was filled with vapers. With 10 days until the hearing, we rallied to fill the bus and were able to fill it near capacity. Many vapers were added up until 3 AM on the morning of departure.
Leading up to the hearing, we had a couple volunteers call vape shops in cities whose representatives were on the GO committee. Our goal was to inform them of the upcoming bill, encourage them and their customers to contact their representatives, and invite them on the charter bus. We discovered that the majority of vape shops were not aware of SB-140.
On the morning of the hearing, at approximately 5AM, we started live streaming our activities on the Periscope app. It was a way for vapers who couldn’t be with us to see what was going on and to see the event in a new way. We also hoped that it would help vapers be a little less intimidated by the legislative process by showing them what to expect.
After a couple stops for food and stretching our legs, we arrived in Sacramento around noon after our six hour ride. Those that arrived on the bus changed out of their travel attire into more capitol appropriate outfits. We met with other vapers in front of the entrance to the capitol building and waited for our cue to enter. Everyone took this time to mingle and take photos.
The buzz in the air was palpable. As we looked around we saw a range of emotions on people’s faces. It was a mix of uncertainty, worry, confidence, content and more. One thing that was clear was the overwhelming sense of pride and respect that these vapers had for one another. Every individual made a choice to spend their day in Sacramento to voice their discord with the proposed legislation.
Around 1PM Doug Hughes, co-president of the Southern California chapter of the Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA), Greg Conley, President of the American Vaping Association (AVA), and Erick Beall, Legislative Advisor for the Northern California chapter of the Smoke Free Association (SFATA) said a few words reminding us about professionalism and tips for what we should say on the microphone. We then proceeded through the security line and into the committee hearing room. The room was at capacity and about two-thirds were in opposition to SB-140. The overflow of attendees were in an adjacent area with televisions to view the hearing.
The nervous energy felt outside was nothing in comparison to what we were feeling once the hearing started. After gritting our teeth and sitting through arguments in support of SB-140, it was finally our turn. Adam Gray, the Committee’s Chairman, called to hear from those in opposition. Erick Beall and Greg Conley said their piece and did an amazing job representing our community. Conley also made a pivotal point in his speech, taking apart his mod and tank to show the committee how hardware and non nicotine eliquid would be affected.
The rest of the opposition formed the line for the microphone that extended all the way out of the room. Typically, stating your name, where your from and your affiliation isn’t difficult. When you’re in the presence of a committee whose vote could affect your livelihood and face to face with the man who authored the bill, it’s hard to focus on the task at hand. It helped that Erick and Greg turned their chairs around to face us, giving us proud and encouraging smiles. It took more than thirty minutes to get through.
After we all sat down, Chairman Gray went over his recommended amendments. Number one was to remove electronic cigarette’s definition as a tobacco product. We were feeling good at this point, knowing that the committee chair and vice chair were voting in our favor.
Gray then opened discussions on the bill. First to speak was Henry Perea who said he’s “struggled with this bill”. Perea asked Conley for clarification on items that did not contain nicotine. After Leno countered, Perea then asked for a motion to move the bill forward with the chair’s amendments. It was seconded by Mike Gibson and given a third by Frank Bigelow. Two minutes into the discussion and we may have a decision. If the rest of the committee voted as recommended, it would be over right now and in our favor.
Of course, things are never that easy. Leno stops the roll call and asks Gray if he can respond to Perea before the vote. Leno showers Perea with compliments before fumbling through screenshots of Big Tobacco websites and closing with a classic, “we’re doing this for the children” speech. After more discussion from Perea and Leno, Gray moves forward with the roll call. As soon as we think we’re making headway, Ken Cooley interjects a substitute motion to amend the current one. The committee is unsure if this motion can proceed and takes a few minutes to seek council.
After confirming the motion could move forward, Gray does a roll call on the motion on his motion to accept only amendments 2, 3, and 4. This motion fails and Gray returns to a roll call on the original motion by Perea to accept all four amendments. The original motion passes with all four amendments. This is the outcome we wanted.
Gray asks Leno how he’d like to proceed with the bill. Leno responds by saying, “the bill as it stands now was defeated on the Senate floor. It’s dead on arrival at the Senate… I disassociate myself from it.” As it stands, the Governmental Organization committee is holding the bill.
The excitement and relief after the hearing was rolling off everyone in waves. In that moment we united in our emotions, our efforts and our victory. The only way we can continue to win these battles is to unite as the powerful community we built ourselves to be. As United Vapers it’s up to us to defend our health, community and industry.