Better Business

Robb Hicken: Vaping shops step up to self-regulate

ROBB HICKEN, chief storyteller for the Better Business Bureau serving the Snake River RegionNovember 5, 2013 

Robb Hicken

The Better Business Bureau is a champion of self-regulation, which is often faster to adopt, more flexible and ready to change with the market, and less burdensome on taxpayers, enforcement agencies and lawmakers.

Idaho lawmakers and health officials want to ban minors from being able to purchase e-cigarettes, and proposals are being tossed around for the state legislative session in January.

But neighboring Utah has already been through the debate, and a nonprofit self-regulatory group has stepped up. The Utah Vapers is a consumer advocacy group and trade organization. Founded in 2011, it supports education and manufacturing, regulation and marketing by the industry while working with state agencies.

"I can support an interventionist approach when the risks are too great to rely exclusively on the private sector," organizer and spokesman Aaron Frazier says. "But, when there is a level playing field, self-regulation can mete out the needed outcomes."

The group urges users to investigate the products for sale. The group has a list of vendors who have joined with the Utah Vapers voluntarily to ensure quality and protection, versus regulation.

"We are not affiliated with or receive any financial support from retail operations or manufacturers," Frazier says. "We're not affiliated with tobacco or pharmaceutical companies, either."

The group has extended its reaches to southern Idaho with conversations in Boise and Pocatello within the past year.

Vapoligy, a Garden City business, came to BBB because of self-regulation. When Jim and Ginger Longden conceptualized the business in 2007, it was with a belief that people wanted a change from tobacco.

"We've always believed that the responsible way to operate a business is to take care of your customers," Jim Longden says. "We believe most people want to walk into a shop and talk face to face about Vaping with honest and caring people."

During the no-smoking ban, Longden helped the City Council set the standard right.

"Up until a year ago, we were the only one in the state with retail stores," he says. "We've always been the ones out front, educating the public and community leaders about the newest products."

Lawmakers need to catch up with the industry since businesses like Vapoligy set standards before vaping gained popularity.

BBB has always encouraged self-regulation. Most notable has been the BBB Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, a voluntary program comprising many of the nation's largest food and beverage companies. It's designed to shift the mix of foods advertised to children under 12 to encourage healthier diet choices and lifestyles.

"Self-regulation is making a meaningful difference in the foods advertised to children," says CFBAI director Elaine Kolish. "This could encourage other food (or media) companies in the U.S. to use the criteria to guide their child-directed advertising practices and make it easier for consumers and interested third-party organizations to evaluate products."

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