Flavored nicotine pouches…addictive and popular
Oral nicotine pouches and lozenges are a relatively new category of nicotine products becoming increasingly popular. The category includes brands such as Zyn, On! and Velo which come in colorful packaging that look like mint containers. Their ability to be used discreetly and their enticing flavors are proving to be very appealing to youth.
Each pouch or lozenge is meant to be placed between the cheek and gum or between the upper lip and gum. The product releases nicotine into the user’s bloodstream creating a buzzing effect that is meant to last one hour.
Sales of Zyn, On! and Velo took off after Congress passed HR 2339 – the Protecting American Lungs and Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act in 2020. When this law restricted vaping products, it created a gray area in the market where products that are smokeless and tobaccoless were technically not beholden to the same restrictions as other nicotine products. Zyn sales in convenience stores increased 470% in the first half of 2020 according to Nielsen data. Popular music lyrics and TikTok trends have only increased its popularity.
Although Zyn, On! and Velo are marketed as safer and cleaner tobacco-free alternatives to smoking, vaping or oral tobacco, it’s important to recognize the negative effects nicotine has on the body.
According to Truth Initiative, America’s largest nonprofit public health organization, nicotine use during adolescence can disrupt the formation of brain circuits that control attention, learning and susceptibility to addiction. In addition, nicotine pouches and lozenges can cause gum irritation, sore mouth, hiccups and nausea according to experts. One resident cautioned, “Don’t use it to give yourself some pep,” as she experienced nausea after trying a Zyn pouch.
Levels of nicotine and toxicants vary significantly across different types of products. For example, in Zyn products, nicotine levels can be as high as 6 milligrams per pouch. Any amount over 4 milligrams is considered strong.
The long-term health impacts of nicotine pouches are still unknown. Furthermore, none of these products are approved for smoking cessation by FDA’s Center for
Drug Research and Evaluation and there is a lack of evidence that they can be used as such.
The bottom line is that oral nicotine products entice users with tobacco-free claims and entice youth with ease of use and appealing flavors, but chronic use can result in nicotine addiction, potentially for life.
By Lisa Nicklanovich; photo courtesy of The Truth Initiative