As a vaper and a vape advocate, sometimes it seems like the whole world is against us. Day after day, we’re barraged with story after story full of misinformation about vapor products and demonizing the people who use and sell them. Sometimes it can be down right depressing.
Don’t let it get you down. Take some solace in knowing we have the truth on our side. We are fighting for a noble cause. And as bad as things seem sometimes,we need to remember that we are WINNING.
Last year, we saw the same war on vaping waged in the media and state capitols across the country by well-funded special interest groups and even our own government. We saw hundreds of horrible bills proposed that would have threatened our rights and destroyed thousands of family-supporting businesses and jobs in the process. And the proposals would have been devastating to public health.
It is maddening. But don’t spend too much time being mad - because we are winning. Together, we defeated over 95% of those hostile bills and we can do it again. We care more, we work harder and we fight. And we fight some more. We proved to the special interests that we are a force with which to be reckoned.
We have the truth on our side. We put people first. And we worked together. If we are anything as vapers, we are a community. We support one another on our paths and we work together when we are under attack. And do you know why else we won? We won because vapor advocates, working with groups like CASAA generated thousands and thousands of phone calls, emails and personal office visits to politicians. We showed up and we were heard.
We need to show up even more this year. When we do show up, it’s important that we work to help and not hinder our cause.For many of us, it’s the first time we’ve petitioned our government and asked to be heard. It can be intimidating. It can be nerve wracking. In helping you get through it successfully, we’ve prepared this list of “Ten Things to Remember When Meeting with a Legislator”:
- Be presentable. First impressions matter. Bathe. Comb your hair. Dress like you’re going to a job interview - and you desperately need the job. Remember, you’re not just representing yourself, but 9 million vapers and tens of millions of smokers who might be denied the chance to switch. Whether they realize it or not, they are counting on you. Do it for them.
- Leave your hostility outside. Take a deep breath and please check your anger at the door. We’re all angry from the news stories and the attacks. The worst thing you can do is direct that anger at someone in power who took the time to sit down and listen to you. If they put you in the “enemy file” (Oh believe me, they have one) they’ll never be open to listening to you. And you definitely don’t want them to put you in the “crazy file.” Oh believe me, they have one.
- Know your audience. Do some research that shows you care. Know whether they are a Republican or a Democrat. Read their website. Know if they are a teacher, a lawyer, a dentist, a small businessman or farmer. Learn their interests. It’s just like making friends in third grade. Try to find something in common.
- Respect their time. They receive a lot of letters, phone calls and meeting requests. They can’t walk to the bathroom, to their car or pick up their kids after school without someone trying to steal their time. They’re giving you a precious gift. Treat it as such and unlike your good-for-nothing brother-in-law, don’t overstay your welcome.
- Be honest and credible. Bring something to leave behind. Err on the side of bringing something objective – a favorable news article, a study, or a blog post from a credible researcher or scientist. Answer the questions you can answer and if you don’t know the answer - Do. Not.Lie. Offer to find the answer for them and do it. Be a person of your word.
- Be likable. It’s simple. Don’t be a jerk. Think about that for a second. Do you like jerks? Be someone that they remember fondly. Be polite. Smile. Shake their hands. Laugh at their jokes. If you make an effort, they’ll be that much more likely to meet with you again in the future, more likely to listen to you, and more open to what you share. And if you come across as a jerk, they won’t just want to avoid you, secretly they’ll want you to lose. Hey, they’re only human.
- Make friends before you need them. Sometimes we are in a rush to meet with our legislator because there is a vote in two days. We can’t always help it. But when things are quiet, reach out and try to meet them when you aren’t asking for anything more than a chance to tell them about your passion and help them understand more about an issue that matters to you.
- Mind your manners. Say “please” and “thank you.” Send an actual thank you note. Let them know you appreciated their time and willingness to listen and remind them what you talked about. They talk to a lot of people. If you can help them remember you, they’ll appreciate the gesture.
- It’s okay to be nervous, but it’s not okay to not tell your story. These folks deal with slick lobbyists and lawyers all day long. Meeting with an actual constituent is special. If you’re a little nervous it tells them that you are a real, actual human being. A real person with real issues who lives and VOTES in their district? That’s gold. Let it shine.
- Crawl before you walk, walk before you run. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Can we come up with one more cliché? Your goal is to make progress and open them up to making more in the future. They all start from different places. Remember that. If you just get that process started, you’ve done well.