Navigating the Zyn Controversy: Understanding the Buzz, the Risks, and the Future

February 14th, 2024

In the ever-changing landscape of nicotine products, one name has caught significant attention – Zyn. The small pouches, which look a bit like a stick of gum, have recently become a point of controversy, sparking discussions about their impact, especially on youth who use nicotine products.

What is Zyn?

Zyn, along with similar products, is a compact pouch containing nicotine and other inactive ingredients within a dissolvable wrapper. Placed between the lip and the gum, these pouches release nicotine slowly over an hour. Originating in Europe in 2009, they have gradually made their way to the U.S., becoming more broadly available in 2019. While the actions to consume the pouches are similar to chewing tobacco, spitting isn’t required, making them more user-friendly, easy to conceal, and tempting for young people. Zyn comes in a wide variety of flavors and has differing nicotine strength options.

Why Does Zyn Matter?

Zyn has become a noticeable presence in convenience stores, gas stations, and even the smoking cessation sections of local pharmacies. The pouches typically contain between 1 and 12 milligrams of nicotine — less than the 12-15 milligrams typically found in a single cigarette — so are being marketed as a “safe” alternative to smoking. Since becoming more available in the U.S., Zyn sales have increased more than 65% in the last year. (1)

Zyn and other similar products do not contain tobacco, so are more similar to nicotine gum and lozenges designed to aid smoking cessation. Unlike these quit-smoking aids, however, nicotine pouches lack approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and haven’t undergone the same testing process to verify their effectiveness in helping people quit smoking.

In a saturated market of oral nicotine pouches, Zyn stands out, but not necessarily for the right reasons. While marketed as a tobacco-free alternative, Zyn’s claim to innovation raises questions about the true health benefits of their products. Using plant-based fibers might be a step away from traditional tobacco, but it doesn’t guarantee a risk-free experience. 

The Controversy and Social Media Influence

Despite being seen as potential alternatives to traditional tobacco, concerns have arisen, especially regarding the influence of social media tempting youth. A surge in Zyn-related content on platforms like TikTok has raised eyebrows, with influencers discussing flavors and engaging in unconventional usage. Zyn boasts fun flavors to get more people to try it, and since it has smaller doses of nicotine, it’s seen as “healthier” or even marketed for cessation.

Regulatory Landscape

As the controversy surrounding Zyn grows, regulatory bodies like the FDA are closely monitoring the situation. The FDA’s concern extends to any tobacco product that may appeal to youth, acknowledging that nicotine pouches, though tobacco-free, fall under their regulation. Recent crackdowns on unauthorized e-cigarettes, such as a recent seizure of over $18 million worth of product at LAX led by the FDA, indicate a shift in marketing to products like Zyn for consumers.

Health Implications and Lack of Long-Term Studies

While nicotine pouches offer an alternative to traditional tobacco, the lack of long-term studies raises concerns about potential health effects. A recent European study found that over half of commercially available products contain toxic, cancer-causing chemicals, although Zyn representatives deny their inclusion. Nicotine’s impact on brain development and addiction potential, especially in youth who use nicotine products, remains a subject of ongoing research.

Support for Zyn/Nicotine Pouch and Other Tobacco Users

Tobacco Free Colorado and the Colorado QuitLine provide free support to anyone who’s ready to quit e-cigarettes, vapes, or other tobacco products. 

Individuals who enroll through the QuitLine are eligible to receive eight weeks of FREE nicotine replacement products in the form of patches, gum, or lozenges. 

Furthermore, those who are trying to quit menthol products can receive up to 16 weeks of free nicotine replacement products and $50 in gift cards for participating in phone coaching calls. The incentive structure includes $10 for the first call, $15 for the second call, and $25 upon completing the third coaching call. This initiative provides practical support for those seeking to quit menthol products and acknowledges the effort and commitment people put into their cessation journey.