All Politics is Local

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CRA, as well as organizations such as IPCPR and the National Association of Tobacco Outlets, are engaged in grassroots outreach. When trying to galvanize the masses on legislation in areas ranging from Salem, Oregon to Boston, Massachusetts, there is no such thing as too many emails, calls and requests for assistance or redundancy.

The tools remain the same, whether attacking an issue in Washington D.C., your state capitol or city hall. Print this list, and put it on the wall of your office. It’s how we can win:

  1. Visit the local office of each of your legislators, whether a city councilman, state legislator or member of Congress. Make sure they know your name, your business and that you have customers who vote.
  2. Invite your local, state and federal politicians into your business for a Cigar Town Hall. Arrange for them to meet some of your customers; that’s how they will know you represent a true voting block.
  3. Invite local media into your shop, to learn about your issue and to send a message to your legislators that your small business is being threatened by the actions of government (or can benefit from a given bill.)
  4. Print speaking points and issue briefs for your customers, and have them available at point of sale; put them in every bag that goes out the door.
  5. Send email notices and links to petitions on legislation when you are promoting sales and events.
  6. Arrange for a “Capitol Day” or “City Council Night” for your fellow tobacconists and patrons to highlight your issues and always “stack a room” if you’re being threatened by ordinances or legislation.
  7. Calls are important. Make sure you and your patrons call the offices of your legislators at all levels, and follow up with letters and emails. It’s about volume, quality, and consistency.

What sparked some of this thought was reading a comment on social media from a gentleman who wished CRA (and I guess others) would “do more than petitions.” Well, this industry is still training its base to do anything at all, in defense of the passion we share for great cigars.

Now that H.R. 564 and S. 294 have been filed in Congress, calling for regulatory relief; now that there is an anti-regulation agenda on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and now that dozens of state and local bills are working for or against the interests of the industry and its customers, petitioning your government could not be more important. Now, however, petition means engagement as never before.

You can learn more about legislative issues pending in your state in the Legislative Action Center at cigarrights.org.

Contributed by Glynn Loope, executive director of Cigar Rights of America.

This story first appeared in the March/April 2017 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.