When rumors started swirling that anti-vaping legislation was on the way, Illinois vape shop owner Dirk Critser decided to take action. Critser is the owner of 309 Vapers, the only ecig shop in Galesburg and he runs it with help from his girlfriend and mom. Back in February, Critser heard that state Rep. Kathleen Willis was pushing for a new bill that would ban vaping indoors. He sprung into action and arranged a meeting with Rep. Willis right away.
“We got a hold of the representative who was introducing this bill, and she listened. She actually took time,” he said. Critser also recruited support from four other Illinois ecig shops and together they hired a vaping lobbyist that had a solid history with the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association and the Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association. With his help, Critser said they were able to convince Rep. Willis to reconsider. “She listened, and we got that pulled back,” he explained. “Government facilities we agreed upon; you can’t vape in the post office.”
They also negotiated the terms surrounding vaping in VA buildings. “We went back and forth. It was impressive,” Critser said. “I’m not a political person at all. It was impressive to actually have a representative take a step back, listen to what we had to say and everything. We were okay with how it ended up.”
Critser considers the whole experience a win for vaping. “I want people to quit smoking,” he said. “That’s my goal in this. That’s why we started doing this.” He went onto explain how he recommends that his customers gradually reduce their nicotine levels until they are completely nicotine free. “I smoked for 20 years, and this got me off of it,” he said. “I can tell you I feel better. I have customers that feel better… I’ve got doctors here in town referring to us.”
This is a great reminder that when we work hard and try to speak reasonably with local representatives, sometimes we can actually change the course of legislation!