Naperville mayor: Juul called off safety talk after finding out it would be public
A maker of a popular e-cigarette and accompanying vaping pods canceled a safety presentation Thursday that had been scheduled before the Naperville liquor commission.
Juul Labs, which earlier this year opened a regional office on Diehl Road near Route 59 in Naperville, canceled its presentation because "they were unaware this was a public meeting," Mayor and Liquor Commissioner Steve Chirico said.
Company representatives were setting up to make their presentation, but they "did not want it to be in a public setting," Chirico said during the meeting, which is public and subject to the Illinois Open Meetings Act.
Chirico had invited Juul Labs representatives to share with the liquor commission a presentation he saw when he visited the company's new office this summer. He said he thought the information the company gave about its device, business model and target market would be valuable for the commission and the public to hear.
A local Juul Labs representative did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday, nor did the company's media relations contact.
Vaping products makers including Juul have come under public scrutiny recently for vaping's connection with several lung illnesses and deaths, including three deaths in Illinois.
There also is much concern throughout the region about underage use of e-cigarettes and vaping products, many of which contain nicotine or THC, the mind-altering component of marijuana.
But Chirico said he wanted the liquor commission and the public to learn more about Juul's decision in October to stop sales of its non-tobacco and non-menthol-based flavored pods and suspend all of its U.S. advertising. The flavored options, including creme brulee, cucumber, fruit and mango, previously had been available only on the company's website requiring age verification for customers 21 and older.
Chirico said the company told him during his tour of the Naperville office about its aim of helping smokers quit combustible cigarettes.
"That's 100 percent what their market is," Chirico said. "A safer way for people to consume nicotine or a successful path to kick the habit of smoking."
Chirico said he thinks Juul is trying to build consumer trust in its e-cigarette, and the company said as much in a news release on its website.
"We must reset the vapor category by earning the trust of society and working cooperatively with regulators, policymakers and stakeholders to combat underage use while providing an alternative to adult smokers," Juul Labs CEO K.C. Crosthwaite said in the release.
Thursday's scheduled presentation also could have been relevant to a state law proposed by Rep. Grant Wehrli, a Naperville Republican representing the 41st District.
Wehrli in September filed a bill that would ban the sales of all flavored vaping products in Illinois, including those containing THC.
"Flavored tobacco products lure kids into a deadly addiction," Wehrli said in a post on his website about the bill -- House Bill 3887 -- which has been referred to the House's rules committee. "When nicotine is flavored to taste like cotton candy, chocolate, strawberry or other enticing tastes, children are being targeted. We are just now learning how damaging and deadly these new nicotine delivery systems are, and we need to do everything we can to keep these products away from kids."
Chirico said he still thinks a presentation from Juul would be valuable for the liquor commission and he will invite the company to present at a future meeting.