As Nicotine Pouches Get More Popular, Some Researchers Have Concerns

U.S. nicotine pouch sales have doubled year over year since 2019, researchers said, with the brand Zyn accounting for nearly 60% of sales

NBC Universal, Inc.

Researchers studying nicotine pouches, a new oral product that gives a rush similar to cigarettes but without using tobacco, are concerned about their soaring use.

The tobacco-free pouches are marketed as a cleaner, more discreet way to consume nicotine. The small microfiber pouch sits in the mouth while the nicotine salt inside dissolves.

They appear to be the latest trend in nicotine use since vaping took off, which prompted Massachusetts in 2019 to implement an emergency ban. It later become the first state to ban flavored tobacco products.

Nicotine pouches are taking off, with use in the U.S. doubling year over year since 2019. Nicotine pouch sales are up 700% comparing the last five months of 2019 to the first three months of 2022, according to research from the American Cancer Society published late last year.

Zyn, the most popular brand, saw the largest increase and accounted for nearly 60% of sales, the researchers found. Other brands involved in the study include Rogue, On! and Velo.

We are just seeing such large increases in products that we don't really know a lot about.

Tyler Nighbor, American Cancer Society scientist

The same spike in sales is happening in Massachusetts, said Tyler Nighbor, a principal scientist with the American Cancer Society. Since the majority of these products aren’t approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, he said he's worried about users' long-term health.

"We are just seeing such large increases in products that we don't really know a lot about, and products that contain a decent amount of nicotine. Products that could be addictive and could be initiated by youth or non-users, and they're coming in a lot of appealing flavors," Nighbor said. "The biggest concerns that we have is, with such increases, we are concerned about just the lack of scientific knowledge that we have about these products and about their relative risks."

The settlement resolves one of the biggest legal threats facing the beleaguered company, which still faces nine separate lawsuits from other states that are suing the company

Neither Zyn, a tobacco lobbying group nor health agencies responded to NBC10 Boston's requests for comment.

Zyn comes in two strengths and a variety of flavors. They’re fairly new to the market and selling fast, especially among young men.

"It's like a little buzz," South Boston resident Alec Cellini said. “It’s makes you feel like you’re walking on a cloud."

“It's not as gross as the actual dip, obviously. That's disgusting," said Max Sabo, who quit a month ago. "I turned 25 and I was like, 'You're a little old for this.'"

Nolan Morris, of South Boston, said he steers clear of nicotine products due to their addictive nature, but added that many of his friends use pouches.

“I think they target young men roughly my age, early and mid-20s," Nolan said. "I know that people who chew dip or chewing tobacco use it quite a bit."

Both Sabo and Cellini said they started using Zyn with the intention of quitting smoking and vaping, but Nighbor noted that he's unaware of any studies that show people quit using these products.

"While I think there are certainly anecdotal stories that are out there, there's not really a lot of peer-reviewed evidence right now to suggest that people are using these as cessation devices," Nighor said.

Contact Us