By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller
Better Business Bureau is a champion of self-regulation – in many situations it is 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 non-profit self-regulatory group has stepped up. The Utah Vapers is a consumer advocacy group and trade organization that cooperates with state agencies for the greater health of the public. 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 has taken a stand with the manufacturing process and urges users to investigate the products for sale. The group has a list of vendors who have joined with The Utah Vapors voluntarily to make sure 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 run 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.”
Vapoligy actually set the regulations in Boise and surrounding communities. 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 pretty much paved the trail for everyone. 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 it gained popularity.
BBB has always encouraged self-regulation. Most notably has been the BBB Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative. The initiative is a voluntary self-regulation 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 dietary choices, and healthy lifestyles.
“Self-regulation is making a meaningful difference in the foods advertised to children,” says CFBAI director Elaine Kolish. “As this self-regulation initiative has matured it has undergone many changes. 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 check products.