Interview: Cynthia Cabrera – SFATA Executive Director

SFATA and its battleground

Vape Vendor Digest recently secured an interview with the Executive Director of the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA), Cynthia Cabrera. Ms. Cabrera graciously answered some of our questions and highlighted what makes SFATA critical in our legislative battle for electronic cigarette liberties.

The following is our written interview with Ms. Cabrera of SFATA:

For those that may not be familiar with your organization, can you briefly define SFATA and its mission?

SFATA is the leading and largest vapor trade association anywhere.  Incorporated in 2012, SFATA started out as a national trade association and in 2014, at the request of members, started rolling out state chapters.

Our goal is to educate and inform legislators, regulators, health departments and the general public to the potential vapor products have to eliminate the public health scourge caused by combusted cigarette use.

Our mission it to preserve access to open vapor products, online sales and flavors and encourage continued innovation of this technology.

Which political issues are currently considered top priorities for SFATA in 2015?

At the state level we are working to address a proliferation of proposed legislation aimed at banning flavors, restricting adult access to vapor products, classification as a tobacco product and taxation.

What is SFATA doing to address these issues on a federal level?

At the federal level we are working to move the needle with Congress and the FDA with regards to the proposed deeming regulations that were announced in spring of 2014.  It’s important to note that neither state nor federal issues occur in a vacuum; what happens at one can have consequences for the other.

Have you found the federal government to be responsive to the efforts of SFATA and other national advocacy groups?

We’ve been speaking to FDA since 2012 and given the 82 comments that FDA included in their proposed regulations, it is obvious that they are paying attention to the issues and concerns the vapor industry has with regards to inappropriate regulation and attempts to treat vapor products like combusted cigarettes.  Further, comments made by the director of CTP (Mitch Zeller) indicate that he recognizes the benefits or alternative vapor products may offer to smokers.

Which political issues do you consider the most pressing for vape shop owners in 2015?

More than half of SFATA’s membership is comprised of vape shop owners and for that reason their concerns mirror SFATA’s and vice versa.  To reiterate, flavors bans, restricting adult access to vapor products (i.e., behind the counter sales requirements), classification as a tobacco product (the escalated fees and fines that brings) and taxation.

How can a vape shop owner be most effective in addressing these issues on a local or state level?

  1. Vape storeowners should engage with local city councils by creating a dialogue with them. They should participate in city meetings and try to meet individually with all of the members of the council as well as with the city attorney. They should explain who they are, the number of years in business, who they employ, their future plans, etc.  They should also tell their personal stories.
  2. If they are SFATA Chapter members they should participate in fly-in’s to the capitol of their state where they can meet with their state reps to let them know what issues are of concern to them and discuss the financial contributions they are making to the state.
  3. Storeowners should also keep contact information for their customers so that they can engage them when a hearing comes up and people are needed to show support or speak.

What events, dates and political movements should vape shop owners pay most attention to in 2015?

THE event to be at in 2015 is SFATA’s annual meeting, “Revolution to Evolution: Next Steps For The Vapor Industry” on May 4 & 5 in Chicago, IL.

In addition to top tier presenters on a variety of topics designed expressly for the vapor market, Mitch Zeller, the Director for the Center for Tobacco Products at FDA will be the featured speaker.  This is an unprecedented event in the vapor industry that legitimizes the industry and confirms the FDA is taking our members seriously.  We hope the business community will turnout and exhibit the professionalism and spirit that makes this industry great.

We also have mini fly-in’s at the nations capitol scheduled throughout July 2015 based on states:

March 18: Pennsylvania and Virginia and Ohio

April 30th: NY and Tennessee

May: Texas and Oklahoma

June: North Carolina, Illinois and Maryland

July: Kentucky, Florida, Arizona