There’s no question that vaping in the United States of America is under attack — and has been under attack for several years now — by anti-vaping groups with ties to the tobacco lobby. However, as we fight to keep vaping accessible, cheap, and legal, we need to think long and hard about the types of vaping advocacy that we all support. Vaping advocacy scams are on the rise, with grifters and scammers designing and publishing alarming websites that call for immediate action. The action they’re calling for usually involves taking out your credit card and parting with your hard-earned money.
Here’s the deal — legitimate vape advocates are fighting tooth and nail to prevent state governments (and the federal government) from implementing blanket bans on vaping products, more often vape flavors than vape equipment.
Sometimes, these advocates are successful. For example, their persistent campaigning managed to convince Florida governor DeSantis to veto a flavor ban just recently:
At other times, they’re not so successful, as evidenced by a recent flavor ban in Chicago:
Make no mistake, though – vape advocacy groups are doing an important job. They’re educating our legislators and the general public on the benefits of vaping, often fighting an uphill battle against heavily tobacco-financed anti-vaping groups.
The last thing these fighters need is fake vaping advocacy campaigns cropping up everywhere, parting vape supporters of their money, and undermining the trust in the genuine articles. Unfortunately, this happens all the time.
Since you want to make sure that you support only legitimate advocacy groups, we created this guide to help you spot vape advocacy scams. If you come across a suspicious organization that you haven’t heard about before, and they’re immediately asking you for money, here’s what you can take a look at before you decide to donate.
Take a Peek at Their Website
Most vape advocacy groups have simple websites. This doesn’t mean that these websites are unprofessional — rather, they are simple in design and designed in a way that allows them to quickly, efficiently, and unequivocally convey important information.
Scammer sites are generally better designed but they look unprofessional in other ways — there are a lot of spelling mistakes, they’re missing key pages (like the about page, or the team page), and the donation button is prominently featured because the whole point is you giving them money.
When you’re looking at the site, check for the following:
- Is the website professional? Does it include a lot of typos? Is it missing crucial pages that need to be there to give you the sense of who the team behind the page is?
- What about contact info? Is there any way to get in touch with the people behind the site? Or is the donate button the only one that you can easily find?
- Does the site have a T & C page? Terms and Conditions can be found on almost all professional and legitimate vape advocacy sites, and some states (like California) actually require them.
- Is there any mention of the organization’s goals on the site? What are they working on currently?
- Is there any mention of the organization’s accomplishments? What have they done for vaping so far? Who is advising them? Who are they affiliated with?
- Are there any social accounts affiliated with the website? What do they look like? Are real people talking and commenting? If a social channel is silent, then something is fishy.
Keep in mind that vape advocacy scammers are looking to create false urgency. They don’t want you to know too much but they want you to DONATE NOW TO SAVE VAPING!!! Generally, when a group is that eager to collect your donation without building a reputation and a bridge first, they’re probably not the real deal.
Contact Them & Ask Questions
Vape advocacy scammers are in it to bag gullible people who don’t ask too many questions. Don’t be one of them. Contact the group asking for your donation and pose the following questions to them:
- Are you filing for charitable tax status? Either 501(c)(3) or community service 501(c)(4)? Most of these organizations are political in nature so their status should be 501(c)(4).
- Do you have an IRS tax ID? If not, then that’s a red flag.
- Who is your attorney? Are you consulting with one to get things set up — organization, lobbying, donation collection? If not, that’s a red flag.
These questions are crucial, and every serious vape advocacy organization WILL have answers to them. If they don’t — they make up excuses, or they ignore your questions — give them a pass.
Check With Established Vaping Organizations
Vaping might be popular but people spearheading the fight against over-legislation are few and far in between. They mostly know each other. That’s why your next course of action should be to contact vaping advocacy groups that have already built a name for themselves. Send them an email, and ask about that new organization that’s emailing you about making a donation.
Some established vaping orgs are:
- Vapor Technology Organization
- American Vaping Association
- Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association
- Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association
Also, don’t be shy to drop us an email here at the Kind Pen. We’re always up to speed when it comes to worthy vaping causes, and will be happy to give you a list of vetted organizations that you can donate to so you don’t have to worry about vape advocacy scammers.
Common Red Flags That Point to a Vape Advocacy Scam
Like all scammers, vape advocacy scammers are relentless. They’re in it to steal your money, and they’ll resort to anything to do it. Psychology has a lot to say about those kinds of people, including shedding light on some tale-tell signs that you might be dealing with them.
Here’s what to look out for when communicating with scammers:
- They don’t understand the word ‘no’ — or they don’t pay attention to it. Manipulators do that in the hopes that you will cave and just do what they want to get rid of them. Don’t fall for it.
- Excessive promises – vape advocates can’t promise anything other than that they will fight until the bitter end. People who promise they’ll get laws and legislation overturned don’t have a clue how much work goes into it.
- Oversharing – because they are lying, scammers often tell you more than they need to when communicating verbally. This is a form of subconscious over-compensation. They are trying to convince you but you’re smarter than that, right?
- Forced teaming – vape advocacy scammers use ‘us’ and ‘we’ way too much. That’s because they’re trying to convince you that you are on the same boat, whether you actually are or not. Beware of that.
Vape advocacy scams are just going to get more pervasive and more persistent in the coming years. Make sure you’re donating to the right causes that will actually fight for your vaping rights, instead of some scammer who’s looking to cash in and disappear into the night!