Home & Family
AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. — From Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Football League to news networks and social media, nicotine pouches have made their presence well-known. Like many vaping products, people see these pouches as an alternative to tobacco. Could these pouches be the new vaping? Their recent growth in popularity has some people wondering if they will become popular among young people, similar to vaping products.
What are nicotine pouches?
Adrienne Duke-Marks, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System human sciences specialist, said nicotine pouches are still fairly new to consumers.
“Nicotine pouches entered the United States marketplace in 2016, but sales have grown rapidly over the last few years,” Duke-Marks said.
Nicotine pouches are small, oral pouches that contain nicotine salts and other additives. Some of the common brands of these products include Zyn, Velo and Rogue. These pouches do not contain tobacco. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration still regulates them because federal law considers any product that contains tobacco-derived nicotine a tobacco product.
People use these pouches between their lips and gums, where the mouth then absorbs the nicotine. Unlike snuff or chewing tobacco, people do not have to spit this product out. This appeals to those that are looking for a cleaner and easier way to get nicotine. FOX Sports reported in early 2023 that some MLB players have turned to these products as a result of oral-tobacco bans.
“These pouches are sold in various flavors and can be used discreetly,” said Duke-Marks, who is also an associate professor in the Auburn University College of Human Sciences. “The pouches are similar to Swedish snus, which is actually considered one of the few products associated with tobacco harm reduction by the FDA.”
People associate the term tobacco harm reduction with using less harmful nicotine products rather than traditional nicotine products, such as cigarettes.
Effects on Health
As vaping products gained popularity in the early 2010s, people called into question their effects on health. Today, there is much more known about their impacts on the brain, heart, lungs and cancer risks. Similarly, people may be curious about the health effects of nicotine pouches and how those compare to vaping and traditional tobacco.
Pouches can range in nicotine levels. Duke-Marks said it is important to remember that any form of nicotine is addictive and can hurt adolescent-brain development.
“Nicotine pouches actually contain lower levels of harmful chemicals, when compared to other nicotine products,” she said. “However, the high levels of nicotine in some of these pouches raise concerns for youth who have never smoked. Right now, there are no long-term studies on the effects of nicotine pouches on the mouth or other systems in the body.”
Use Among Young People
Research done in the last several years shows a steady increase in the number of U.S. middle- and high-school students using electronic nicotine devices. For nicotine pouches, retailers have seen an uptick in sales. However, Duke-Marks said there has not been much research done to examine self-reported use of nicotine pouches in youth or adults.
“As with other new nicotine products, youth and young adults are often the first to try new substances and popularize usage,” Duke-Marks said. “However, a recent study done on marketing in the U.S. has not found that they (companies) are specifically targeting youth audiences at this time.”
Will these nicotine pouches become the next vaping? At this point, there is much more research to do before professionals can answer that question. However, parents and guardians can use these pouches’ popularity as a chance to talk to young people about nicotine.
“If you just tell young people that you do not want them to smoke or vape, you are not getting at the main substance that causes addition for teens,” Duke-Marks said. “Talk to them about the dangers of nicotine and the impact of addiction on the body and mind. Think more about the substance and less about the method of getting it in the system.”
Alabama Extension’s human sciences team has resources that can help you have this conversation with your child or young adult. These resources cover topics such as smoking, vaping, cigarillos, pouches, hookah/shisha and others. To find these resources, search for these topics at www.aces.edu. You can also visit the website’s Health section under the Home and Family topic area.
Trade and brand names used in this publication are given for information purposes only. No guarantee, endorsement, or discrimination among comparable products is intended or implied by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.