Nicotine Pouches: A New Horizon for Quitting Smoking?

Yesterday, a new chapter in my learning unfolded unexpectedly. Despite quitting smoking in 2015 after years as a heavy smoker, a client on Upwork introduced me to nicotine pouches—a term I hadn't encountered before. If I knew about this product back then, I might have considered them in my efforts to quit. This article explores nicotine pouches, aiming to inform those contemplating quitting smoking about this alternative.

A Brief History of Nicotine Pouches

Nicotine pouches stem from older tobacco products like Swedish snus (a moist, smokeless tobacco product from Sweden). The modern iterations, however, are distinctly different—these are tobacco-free sachets that offer a cleaner nicotine delivery. Emerging in the early 2000s, with notable brands like ZYN launching in the U.S. market by 2014, these products have evolved from traditional tobacco usages to incorporate synthetic or purified nicotine with plant-based fibers, providing a smokeless nicotine experience.

What Exactly are Nicotine Pouches?

Photo borrowed from Nature.Com

Nicotine pouches are small, teabag-like sachets that users place under their lip. Unlike traditional tobacco products, these pouches contain no tobacco leaf, instead offering purified nicotine embedded in a cellulose powder base. This format allows for nicotine to be absorbed through the gums without smoking, burning, or spitting—providing a cleaner, discreet way to satisfy nicotine cravings. The absence of tobacco means significant reductions in the user's exposure to tar and carcinogens typically associated with cigarettes and other smoked tobacco products.

The Potential Benefits

For those looking to quit smoking, nicotine pouches offer several potential advantages:

  • Reduced Harm: By eliminating the combustion of tobacco, nicotine pouches do not produce smoke, ash, or tar, cutting down the number of harmful chemicals inhaled.
  • Discreet Use: They can be used discreetly without smoke or odor, allowing users to manage their nicotine intake in various settings without affecting others.
  • Flexibility: Available in various strengths and flavors, nicotine pouches provide options for users to tailor their nicotine replacement therapy according to their preferences and needs.

Health Risks and Concerns

While nicotine pouches reduce many risks associated with traditional smoking, they introduce their own set of health and regulatory concerns.

Nicotine Addiction 

Nicotine is a primary ingredient in these pouches and is well-documented for its addictive properties. It stimulates the brain's reward system by releasing dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in pleasure and mood regulation. This mechanism can lead to nicotine dependence, making it difficult for users to stop. The risk of addiction is significant regardless of the form in which nicotine is consumed, whether smoking, vaping, or through nicotine pouches.

Health Risks

  • Cardiovascular Disease: Nicotine increases heart rate and blood pressure, putting extra stress on the heart. Over time, this can contribute to heart disease.
  • Mental Health: Nicotine has been shown to affect mood and mental health. For some, it can act as a stimulant, but it can also exacerbate anxiety and depression in others.
  • Developmental Impacts: For younger users, nicotine can interfere with brain development, potentially affecting attention, learning, and susceptibility to addiction.

Regulation and Quality

Nicotine pouches are relatively new on the market, and as such, regulatory frameworks are still developing. This means the level of oversight can vary significantly by country or region, affecting what is allowed in terms of nicotine content, flavors, and marketing. Without standardized regulations, the quality and safety of nicotine pouches can vary widely between brands and batches. This variability can impact the effectiveness of the product as a smoking cessation tool and may introduce other health risks.

Lack of Long-Term Data

Because nicotine pouches are a recent innovation, there is limited data on their long-term health effects. This lack of data makes it difficult to fully assess their safety profile compared to more traditional nicotine replacement therapies like patches or gum.

Given these factors, while nicotine pouches can be a useful tool for reducing exposure to the harmful elements of cigarette smoke, they are not without risks and should be used cautiously, ideally under the guidance of a healthcare provider.

User Experiences and Testimonials

Photo borrowed from Snusdirect.Eu

User feedback on nicotine pouches such as ZYN, VELO, and Rogue presents a broad spectrum of experiences, largely positive but with some caveats.

ZYN Nicotine Pouches: Many users favor ZYN for its varied and consistent flavors, noting that each pouch maintains its taste for about 35 minutes, which is a significant plus for regular users. ZYN is praised for its strong aroma and satisfying flavor release, making it a go-to choice for those seeking a dependable nicotine experience​ (Vaping360)​​ (Element Vape)​.

VELO Nicotine Pouches: VELO stands out in the market due to its extensive flavor range and strength options, receiving high marks for both from users. The feedback often highlights the high quality and deliciousness of the flavors offered. However, some users mention challenges with the brand's recent rebranding, which involved changing the names of some flavors, leading to confusion. Despite this, VELO remains highly regarded for its product variety and flavor quality​ (Two Wombats)​.

Rogue Nicotine Pouches: Rogue is recognized for its flavorful offerings and the comfortable fit of its pouches. Users appreciate the design that ensures the pouches are both discreet and comfortable for extended use. The feedback underscores Rogue's appeal for those who prioritize both flavor and comfort in their nicotine pouch experience​ (Vaping360)​.

Overall, while many users find nicotine pouches a favorable and enjoyable alternative to smoking, preferences can vary based on individual experiences with different brands, flavors, and strengths. New users typically explore various options to discover the brand that best suits their taste and nicotine needs.

Regulatory Views and Market Insights in the Philippines

The regulatory landscape for nicotine pouches in the Philippines is complex and evolving. Currently, nicotine pouches are categorized along with e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products under Republic Act No. 11900. This act considers these products as consumer goods, unless they make medical claims, which would then require approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)​ (TobaccoIntelligence)​​ (Business Wire)​​ (Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction)​.

This framework places nicotine pouches under a less stringent set of rules compared to traditional tobacco products. However, they are subject to regulations concerning their sale, distribution, and advertising, akin to those applied to general consumer products. The regulatory environment is closely monitored and frequently updated, which reflects a cautious approach towards newer tobacco alternatives, balancing access and control to mitigate public health risks.

In the Philippines, the conversation around nicotine pouches and similar products is mainly driven by health authorities and regulatory bodies. These entities are actively engaged in setting guidelines that ensure the products on the market do not undermine public health objectives. The aim is to manage the availability of these products, preventing potential misuse, especially among the youth, while providing alternatives for adult smokers looking to quit traditional tobacco​ (TobaccoIntelligence)​​ (Business Wire)​​ (Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction)​.

As the market for nicotine pouches grows, ongoing surveillance and adjustments in regulations are likely to continue, reflecting new research findings and public health trends. For businesses and consumers alike, staying informed about these regulations is crucial to navigate this dynamic market landscape effectively.

Is It Worth a Try?

For those considering options to quit smoking or seeking a less harmful nicotine alternative, nicotine pouches could be an avenue to explore. They represent a modern approach to nicotine consumption with potential health benefits over traditional smoking. However, caution is advised due to their nicotine content. Consulting with a healthcare provider is recommended to tailor the best approach to your health and quitting goals.

Nicotine pouches might serve as a transitional tool or aid in your journey towards quitting smoking, but the ultimate goal should always reduce nicotine dependence altogether.

Acknowledgements: Cover photo borrowed from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health


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