The meeting has concluded. The members all have spoken. So what exactly went down, and what happens next?
Now, this entire meeting, at least to my eyes, seemed to be quite productive. If anything, we were able to get an understanding of Trump and the White House’s view on the matter; even if they didn’t explicitly state it. We also got a look at the non-defense the opposition presented, only clinging on to one argument the entire encounter.
The meeting started out with a roll call. Members included the American Lung Association, sniveling shill Matt Myers and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, the American Heart Association, Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society, Juul CEO KC Crosthwaite, NJOY CEO Ryan Nivakoff, Altria CEO Howard Willard, and on our team Tony Abboud of the Vapor Technology Association, Scott Eley of the American E-liquid Manufacturing Standards Association, and of course Greg Conley of the American Vapor Association. There may have been more that I haven’t mentioned. Nonetheless, it was a room packed with vibrant, passionate, and conflicting adversaries.
The meeting starts, and immediately the Anti’s get out their talking points. But only 10 minutes in, Greg Conley comes out with a shocking diatribe aimed at the “health” groups who have received funding from Michael Bloomberg to oppose vaping.
This sets the tone for the rest of the interview, and everyone at this point has put on their gloves. Fortunately, it looked like the Anti’s thought they were coming to a dance, rather than a brawl. Their main argument they continued to harp on was “youth initiation”. But this wasn’t a strong enough case to hold up to many of the smart questions and concerns from the President.
“One thing I see, though…if you don’t give it to them, it’s going to get here illegally…that’s the one problem I can’t seem to forget”.President Donald Trump during the meeting
When the issue of illicit or black market products arose, the Anti’s had no answer. But, Tony Abboud had one lined up; ready to go. “a flavor ban will not work. And you’ve articulated one, critical reason why, it will not work…and that’s because adults are demanding these flavors”. Of course, a black market will be conjured should adult access to products they use every day, is removed. Trump seemed VERY receptive of this message, and it was something he brought up time & again. The idea that losing hundreds of thousands of jobs, closing up thousands of shops, and pushing people to illicit markets, all because Michael Bloomberg doesn’t like vaping, seemed like it didn’t makes sense to the President.
Another interesting exchange happened during Greg’s diatribe. Greg brings up the flawed PMTA regulatory model. He explained how small businesses could not afford this process. President Trump found this was something he knew all too well, even finishing Greg’s sentence “….because they can’t afford it.” when speaking to Greg about why small businesses will be closed down come May 2020. This is the policy that needs to be changed, and it seems now at least the President is aware of this.
The rest of the meeting consisted of the Anti’s stating “What about the kids?“. Even Mitt Romney, who was there for some odd reason, stated that exact question when speaking on the availability of flavors. Though, remember, this argument wasn’t able to be held up each and every time. Trump once responding “how do you solve the counterfeit problem?” when speaking to the Pediatrician who responded…”I’m looking at Secretary Azar and hoping he has a solution to that“. Essentially, a non answer, to which the President quipped “well…it’s a big problem.” Pointing the finger at the White House to do its job, is not something they enjoy. (I’m sure that woman was scolded for that comment as well).
Our side of the industry, thanks to the great work from Abboud, was able to not only answer those questions, but also proposed real, actionable solutions. Things like raising the age to 21, putting marketing restrictions on flavored products, and even offering to remove them from C-stores. These are policies Trump seemed to notice with a reply “we’re going to do that, we’re going to do that…” when speaking on tobacco 21. The meeting ended well with Abboud speaking about how many jobs will be lost if a flavor ban is implemented, and Trump then slamming his hands on the table with an “Ok, thank you” closing the congregation.
One of the most surprising exchanges happened with NJoy CEO, Nivakoff defending flavors. Nivakoff explained how a flavor ban will not hurt his business, since they will be one of the few vapor companies that will remain. Trump even asking “then why are you here?”. Nivakoff stated he still wants to advocate for flavors in these products because he knows they are vital to vaping’s success and the rest of the industry relies on them. This concession was appreciated with many in the community.
Unfortunately, we don’t know what actions the White House will take just yet. The Washington Post reported that the President wants to have another meeting with advisors on Friday. What this means, I don’t know. But the meeting seemed to sour on the health groups. What I do know, is that our side was represented fairly, clearly, & with passion. This type of motive is attractive to Trump and he seemed to respond well to our sides points. Him harping on the black market and the prospect of losing jobs means he’s not only listened, but understands the economical dynamics at play. Also, with his manager Brad Parscale and policy chief Joe Grogan in his ear telling him this ban could give way to massive voter loss, he understands the political dynamics as well. We still have the PMTA hanging over the industries head. And Trump pushing the issue till May will do almost nothing to help. But enacting tobacco 21 only, will be a gigantic win, and allow the industry some time to lobby against the FDA.
What did you think of the meeting? Did you think it went well? Do you think Greg Conley ad Tony Abboud did a good job? What do you think of NJoy coming to the defense of flavors? Leave your opinions on this matter down in the comments below. And be sure to share this article using the social media links provided.