The popularity of Zyn nicotine pouches has skyrocketed among teens and young adults, driven primarily by social media. The oral nicotine pouches, also known as snus, have shown utility as a smoking cessation aid for adults, but are pouches “packed with problems” for youth.

RT’s Three Key Takeaways

  1. Zyn and other oral nicotine pouch use increased more than six-fold from 2019 to 2022.2
  2. The nicotine pouches may help adult smokers quit but they may encourage youth to start using nicotine.3
  3. Social media “zynfluencers” are promoting daily use of the products on TikTok, demonstrating how the pouches can be tucked discreetly into their upper lip before school.2

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer recently dubbed these oral nicotine products as pouches “packed with problems.”1

John Hopkins University reports that Big Tobacco has begun investing in the products, as Phillip Morris International purchased Zyn in 2022 after sales for nicotine pouches jumped from 126 million units between August and December 2019 to more than 808 million between January and March 2022.2  

A Risk/Benefit Assessment

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Center says the Zyn products are safer than smoking, but still pose risks to users.3 The nicotine pouches may help adult smokers quit but they may encourage youth to start using nicotine, according to Vaughan Rees, senior lecturer on social and behavioral sciences and director of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Global Tobacco Control.

Rees told USA Today that snus products like Zyn “may be appealing to young people because they are less dangerous than smoking—but that doesn’t mean they’re risk-free.”3

Parallels to the Youth Vaping Epidemic

Johns Hopkins University public health experts have drawn parallels between the increased use of Zyn products and the growth of vaping products in the 2010s.

According to JHU’s Tory Spindle, an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, nicotine pouches have drawn attention as they parallel e-cigarettes in flavors, raising concerns about their appeal to youth; while they are unquestionably safer than existing tobacco products, the long-term effects, especially on youth brain development, remain unknown, posing a public health dilemma on accessibility for smokers while preventing new addictions.2

Spindle reports that while nicotine pouches lack conventional tobacco carcinogens, their compenents’ long-term effects are uncertain, causing acute adverse events like nausea and mouth lesions; while they can boost cognitive functioning, the risk of young non-users turning to nicotine for stimulant purposes raises concerns about nicotine overuse. Furthermore, there’s a distinction between pouches containing tobacco-derived nicotine and those with synthetic nicotine, not always clear from the label, which impacts safety.



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