As youth vaping continues to be a public health concern, with 2.5 million middle and high school students reporting vaping use in 2022, different types of flavored nicotine products are becoming more common: oral nicotine pouches.
As smoking has declined, tobacco companies have shifted focus to "smokeless" tobacco products, including oral nicotine pouches. Oral nicotine pouches are used in the same way as snuff – a pouch containing shredded tobacco leaves – but unlike snuff, they contain nicotine powder instead of tobacco leaves. Nicotine bags contain nicotine, which is harmful to young people in all its forms. Because there are no tobacco leaves, the Food and Drug Administration does not classify oral nicotine pouches as a smokeless tobacco product.
Oral nicotine pouches are e.g. Zyn, Yes! and Velo. These products have grown in popularity in recent years, with total sales of nicotine pouch products increasing from $126.06 million from August to December 2019 to $808.14 million from January to March 2022. During this period, sales of nicotine pouch products with a higher nicotine concentration (8 mg) increased faster than products with a lower nicotine concentration (e.g. .4 mg and 6 mg). In addition, Altria has informed its investors that it will introduce a new version of On! nicotine pouch product with a higher nicotine content than its current On! Products.
According to a new study co-authored by the Truth Initiative, ads for oral nicotine pouches emphasize flavors and emphasize the "freedom" of using nicotine pouches anywhere. Leading nicotine pouch brands spent nearly $25 million on advertising between January 2019 and September 2021.
In the past, the Truth Initiative has made recommendations that federal tobacco control agencies include oral nicotine patch measures in national surveys. In 2022, the CDC included oral nicotine pouches in their National Youth Tobacco Survey, where they estimated that 1.1% of middle and high school students had used these products. As more information emerges, here are some important things you should know about these products.
Nicotine concentrations vary between brands of oral nicotine pouches. For example, in the US, Zyn is sold in 3 and 6 mg, Velo is sold in 2, 4 and 7 mg, and On! sold in 1.5, 2, 3.5, 4, and 8 mg strengths, according to each brand's website. Altria's new On! a nicotine pouch product called On! Also offers strengths of 6, 9 and 12 mg nicotine.
Oral nicotine pouches come in a variety of youth-friendly flavors such as fruit, mint, and more.
The availability of sweet, fruity, and candy-like flavors is a concern because federal flavor restrictions on pod-based e-cigarettes like JUUL may cause youth vaping to switch to other nicotine products that still offer flavors. . For example, disposable e-cigarettes, which were exempted from the partial flavor restriction imposed by the FDA in January 2020, have grown in popularity. Sales of menthol-flavored e-cigarettes, which were also exempt, also grew dramatically, immediately, by nearly $60 million and more than doubled their market share.
Flavors play a significant role in attracting young people to tobacco products - almost 85% of young e-cigarette users choose a flavored product according to 2022 NYTS data.
Oral nicotine products are not yet regulated as strictly as other tobacco products. The FDA imposes regulations on these products, including requirements that manufacturers submit certain information to the agency, use nicotine warning labels, and adhere to some basic marketing restrictions. There are currently no federal regulations prohibiting or restricting the sale of oral nicotine pouches, and the marketing restrictions for these products are not as strict as those for combustible tobacco products.
Although the specific long-term health effects of nicotine pouches like the Zyn are still unknown, the use of nicotine by adolescents in any form is not safe. Nicotine use during adolescence can disrupt the formation of brain circuits that control attention, learning and addiction. Studies have shown that early age of nicotine use correlates with daily use and lifelong nicotine addiction. Nicotine use can also intensify the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
The Truth Initiative strongly urges the FDA to remove all unlicensed oral nicotine products from the market, including Zyn. In order to prevent young people from using these products, removing all flavors from tobacco products is crucial, as well as placing restrictions on the market to limit exposure.