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Considering Using Zyn Pouches? Here's Why You Shouldn't

 06/14/2024  

Key Takeaways

01.  Zyn pouches are an increasingly popular product marketed as a tobacco-less, smoke-free item that offers a discreet way to intake the stimulant through nicotine salts.

02.  Placed between the gum and the cheek, a single puch delivers between 3-6 milligrams of nicotine over the next hour without the need to spit, but it doesn’t come without harm.

03.  Nicotine and the chemicals contained within Zyn pouches can have a wide range of negative effects spanning both mental and physical health.

04.  The Shift is the best breathing necklace available on the market and is designed to help more effectively quit nicotine, improve anxiety, support mental health, and act as a proven vape alternative.

Tobacco-less Doesn’t Mean Harmless

A fairly new nicotine product has been rising in popularity over the past few years, alongside the growing number of smoking alternatives. If you're well-versed in the nicotine world or just doing some research, chances are that you’ve heard of it. We’re talking about Zyn pouches! One reason attributed to their rise in popularity is the marketing hype of them as a “healthy” smoking alternative. The question is whether or not this holds validity. 

 

Many products tout themselves as good smoking substitutes, relying on a few key statements to support the claim. One popular slogan is, “They have fewer chemicals than a cigarette, so they’re healthier.” Well, it’s not hard to be healthier than a cigarette. There’s a reason they were nicknamed cancer sticks. Secondly, they still contain a variety of chemicals that are harmful to the body. It’s like choosing between a regular or diet soda. 

 

Another popular factor they lean on is that there are “insufficient studies” regarding whether the products cause bodily harm. As a relatively new market, science hasn’t yet caught up to testing the short- and long-term impact of smokeless and tobacco-free products on health. That doesn’t mean they’re safe for use, though. People used cigarettes for several decades, and tobacco centuries before the strong scientific evidence of their harmful effects was recognized and accepted by the public health community.

 

With all that in mind, it begs the question of whether or not Zyn pouches are as healthy as they claim and if you should join the hype and pick up a can. (Spoiler alert: dont!)

Zyn, A History

First of all, where did these pouches even come from, and what are they? 

 

Zyn’s history is rooted in Sweden. The concept of nicotine pouches, including Zyn, stems from the Swedish tradition of snus—a moist, smokeless tobacco product that has been popular in certain areas for centuries. Snus laid the groundwork for today's tobacco-free nicotine pouches, offering an alternative for those seeking nicotine without tobacco.

 

The development of Zyn, in particular, can be traced back to 2008. A company called Niconovum introduced the first nicotine pouches in Scandinavia, opening the door for other nicotine alternatives. With individuals in the region already familiar with snuss, these new pouches quickly gained traction. In 2014, Zyn was officially launched in the United States by Swedish Match, a company with a longstanding history in the tobacco industry. It took a while, but the U.S. market eventually caught on to and embraced Zyn, thinking that it was a less harmful alternative to traditional tobacco products.

 

And, when we say embraced, we mean embraced. In February 2024, Philip Morris International, the holding company for Swedish Match, reported that it had shipped 350 million cans of Zyn in 2023, marking a 62% increase from the previous year. 

 

Today, Zyn is produced in both Sweden and the United States. The pouches increasing popularity has led them to be introduced in other areas worldwide, and are now available in various countries such as Switzerland and the UK.

What is Zyn?

Zyn pouches use pharmaceutical-grade nicotine salt derived from tobacco leaves, yet they contain no actual tobacco. Nicotine salts, or nic salts, start with pure nicotine, known as free-base nicotine. This free-base nicotine is mixed with an acid, such as benzoic acid or citric acid, to cause a chemical reaction where the acid bonds with the nicotine, forming a more stable compound. Thus, the nic salts are born. 

 

In addition to being tobacco-free, one factor that draws individuals to products with nicotine salts is that they get the stimulant into your bloodstream faster than regular nicotine. This happens because nicotine salts are more easily absorbed by your body. In other words, when you use nicotine salts, your body can take in the nicotine more quickly and efficiently, giving you a faster experience.

 

The salt itself looks like a white powder and is packaged into small, white pouches made of plant-based fibers. These are then sold in round cans with 15-20 pouches in each can. Zyn products come in various flavors and sweeteners to appeal to a wider audience, which has been particularly troublesome because they encourage use in youth. Some of the more popular ones include Cool Mint, Spearmint, Bellini, Espressino, and Citrus.

How is Zyn Used?

Zyn pouches are used by placing them between your gums and either your upper or lower lip, where they come in contact with the lining of your mouth. The lining inside your cheeks called the buccal mucosa, absorbs nicotine that isn't attached to other molecules, known as "free" nicotine. After absorption, nicotine travels through your bloodstream to your brain. There, it prompts the release of adrenaline and dopamine, leading to feelings of pleasure and energy. At least, it does temporarily…

 

The uniqueness of products like Zyn is that the nicotine is absorbed into the system slowly throughout the next hour or so. And, since there’s no tobacco, users don’t have to spit as they would with other products like snuff. This adds to the allure of discrete nicotine consumption, but at what cost? We’ll get into that in a moment.

How Much Nicotine is in Zyn?

Speaking of nicotine, how much is packed within these tiny pouches? 

Zyn nicotine pouches come in two different nicotine strengths:

  1. Zyn 3 milligrams
  2. Zyn 6 milligrams

Cigarettes, in comparison, have around 10-12 milligrams per stick. At face value, it may seem like Zyn offers a much lower nicotine dose. However, a majority of the nicotine contained in the cigarette is lost through burning, meaning that only 1-2 milligrams will enter the body. That’s why reading between the lines and diving into the research is so important! If you have a 6mg Zyn pouch slowly releasing into your body for the next hour, that’s a much higher dose of nicotine.

 

Not to mention, many individuals admit that because of the slow release, they’ll put two or three in their mouths at a time to get that familiar buzz faster. Combined, that means anywhere between 6-18 milligrams of nicotine could be entering their body at one time. This massive dose can cause a variety of issues, such as rapidly rising heart rate and blood pressure.

Is Zyn Bad For You?

That’s the question, right? Before getting into the potential long-term impact, let’s briefly touch on the short-term side effects associated with use. When you pick up a can of Zyn pouches, these could be some of the first signs of wellness issues.

 

Short-term side effects include:

  • Hiccups: These are caused by the irritation of the diaphragm due to swallowing excess saliva that contains nicotine.
  • Mouth or gum irritation: This results from direct contact of Zyn pouches with the oral mucosa, leading to localized irritation.
  • Nausea and upset stomach: The ingestion of nicotine, especially on an empty stomach, can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Sore mouth: Extended exposure to nicotine in the Zyn pouches can cause mouth soreness and discomfort

Most importantly, a side effect of using Zyn pouches is nicotine addiction. This study found that the rise in nicotine levels in blood was comparable with the rise following cigarette consumption, showcasing its addictive properties. 

 

For those who are just beginning to dip their toes in nicotine, being able to pop in a pouch that slowly but steadily infuses your body with this substance can easily lead to addiction over time. If you are already familiar with nicotine and thinking of using this as a stepping stone to quitting, Zyn pouches can actually lead to a relapse with other tobacco products. With such a strong overall dose of nicotine in the pouches and the ability to use them at any time, anywhere, the cause and effect of continuing addition just makes sense. 

That’s probably why the FDA does not approve these products as tobacco cessation interventions. 

So, while some marketing campaigns suggest Zyn pouches can help quit tobacco, no data supports that it’s an effective alternative. If anything, it can just make the usage worse by combining these pouches with other tobacco products.

The FDA Factor

Speaking of, ZYN has not received FDA approval. As of now, the FDA is still reviewing Philip Morris International's 2020 application for authorization to market Zyn nicotine pouches. While they have allowed Zyn to remain on the market while the application is being reviewed, there are some major concerns. 

 

One significant issue is the potential for underage use. The FDA has recently taken action against retailers selling Zyn pouches to minors, issuing a series of warning letters. The agency is particularly concerned about the impact of nicotine on young people, as it can lead to addiction and negatively affect brain development.

 

And, their concerns are valid. According to the 2023 National Youth Tobacco Survey conducted by the FDA and CDC, 1.5% of middle school and high school students reported using nicotine pouches in the previous 30 days. As a fairly new product on the market, that statistic is alarming, especially considering the impact nicotine can have on a developing brain. We’ll get more into that in a moment. Social media videos showcasing Zyn use have also skyrocketed, racking up millions of views. Harmful trends are also a concern like “mouth stuffing” where video creators try to place as many Zyn pouches in their mouths as they can, disregarding the potential for nicotine overdose.

 

Government officials have also been adding their voices to the discussion. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a press conference, “It’s a pouch packed with problems — high levels of nicotine. So today, I’m delivering a warning to parents, because these nicotine pouches seem to lock their sights on young kids — teenagers, and even lower — and then use the social media to hook ’em.”

 

Marketing practices also play a role. Zyn's advertisements have raised concerns because they may suggest that nicotine pouches are a safer alternative to traditional tobacco products without sufficient evidence—something we’ve mentioned a few times throughout this article. The FDA requires that product marketing accurately reflect the risks associated with use, and let’s be clear: They are not exactly the healthy, hip alternative they’re being marketed as.

 

Finally, nicotine pouches' regulatory status is complicated by their newness and lack of tobacco content, which means they don't fit into established categories of tobacco products. The FDA demands comprehensive safety and efficacy data before approving new products, and, again, the long-term health effects of nicotine pouches are not yet understood.

Long Term Effects of Zyn Pouches

So, Zyn pouches haven’t been on the market long enough for studies to analyze and understand the long-term side effects of use. That said, it’s easy to draw correlations until the market catches up by looking at a few factors. 

Physical Health

Let’s dive into the physical impact Zyn pouches could have on the body.

Chemicals

The chemicals contained within Zyn pouches are one major concern. While they contain key ingredients like flavorings, sweeteners, fillers, pH adjusters, and stabilizers, they also contain an array of other harmful substances. This study found traces of ammonia, chromium, formaldehyde, and nickel in the pouches they tested. With the lack of testing and data collected, it’s not yet clear the full extent of how the chemicals contained in the products will affect health in the long term. Only time and further scientific studies will tell. Again, regardless of marketing efforts, no information doesn’t mean positive outcomes.

 

Sure, the pouches are not up to the level of the over 7,000 chemicals found in cigarettes, but it’s still not a health-conscious choice. Any chemical introduction into the body does not support our internal systems. Not to mention, with how much environmental exposure we face in modern society, the more we can do to lessen our toxic burden, the better.

Nicotine

The presence of nicotine in pouches is the real kicker when it comes to health. While addiction is a major concern, the impact on the physical body is just as worrisome. While studies haven’t developed into the impact of nicotine in tobacco-free products, the research regarding other products containing nicotine does not bode well. 

Cardiovascular System

Nicotine can affect the cardiovascular system, especially for those with underlying conditions. It increases heart rate and blood pressure, leading to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. According to research, chronic nicotine use can cause the arteries to harden, a condition known as atherosclerosis, which further escalates the risk of cardiovascular complications.

Gastrointestinal Disorders

Nicotine also impacts the gastrointestinal system. It can increase the risk of developing ulcers and other gastrointestinal issues due to its ability to alter the digestive process and reduce the effectiveness of the body's immune response in the gastrointestinal tract.

Immune System

Regular nicotine use can weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections and diseases. This immunosuppressive effect is particularly dangerous if you have pre-existing health conditions or those who are frequently exposed to pathogens.

Oral Health

Placing these pouches in your mouth can obviously have an instantaneous effect, but researchers also hypothesize that it can have a longer impact. One concern is localized gingival recession near where the product is held. Emerging studies also indicate that the flavorings and other chemicals in nicotine pouches can harm periodontal health. These substances may impair the innate immune responses in the gums, making them more susceptible to infections and periodontal diseases.

Addiction and Dependency

Nicotine addiction can lead to long-term dependence, making it extremely difficult for individuals to quit once they have started. The withdrawal symptoms associated with nicotine addiction, including irritability, anxiety, and intense cravings, often drive users back to using Zyn pouches or other nicotine-containing products.

Developing Brains

As adolescent brains are still developing, nicotine can have a serious long-term impact on those who use stimulant-containing products. Studies currently indicate that smoking during adolescence increases the risk of developing psychiatric disorders and cognitive impairment later in life, as well as attention deficit disorders. Further evidence points to neurotoxic effects in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), which interferes with adolescent cognitive development, executive functioning, and inhibitory control and increases dependence on the substance. These effects are due to nicotine's influence on neurotransmitter systems and neural circuitry, which can disrupt normal brain development and functioning.

 

These aren’t the full scale of now nicotine impacts the body, but it’s enough to create a picture of the unhealthiness of use. By being informed about these risks, you can make better choices for your health and well-being.

Mental Health

The relationship between nicotine and mental health is complex. Categorized as a stimulant, nicotine can initially seem to have positive effects, such as improved mood and concentration. However, these effects are short-lived and can lead to dependency and negative mental health outcomes in the long term. One study found that smokers had nearly double the risk of developing depression or schizophrenia than nonsmokers. It can also lead to lower levels of dopamine production by the brain, triggering a need to get more nicotine to increase dopamine levels.

 

For those who already have mental health diagnoses, the effects can be far more detrimental. They often need higher doses of antipsychotic medicines and antidepressants because smoking interferes with the way these medicines work. They are also typically more dependent on taking nicotine and are more likely to have higher levels of use.

Zyn Pouches and Anxiety

Immediate Effects: When nicotine enters the brain, it can create a temporary sense of relaxation and stress relief, which might reduce feelings of anxiety momentarily. 
Long-Term Effects: Over time, the dependency on nicotine can actually exacerbate anxiety. As the effects of nicotine wear off, withdrawal symptoms can include increased anxiety and irritability. 

The proof in the pudding is the fact that quitting nicotine often leads to significant improvements in mental health. Former users report reduced depression, anxiety, and stress, along with enhanced mood and quality of life. Furthermore, studies also suggest that stopping smoking can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression equal to that of taking antidepressants.

The Bottom Line

While there isn’t a complete quantifiable data set explaining the impact of Zyn pouches on health, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Between the chemicals and the nicotine these pouches contain, they’re not a habit that will support your overall wellness in the short term and the long term. 

 

If you’re looking for something to help with anxiety, meet an oral fixation need, or a tool to help stop a nicotine habit, opt for something that won’t negatively impact your body. The Shift Breathing Necklace can be a phenomenal resource to help you achieve success! 

Poster

This breathing tool is intended to help individuals manage nicotine withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, stress, insomnia, and cravings. By promoting controlled, mindful breathing with slow exhales, The Shift Breathing Necklace aims to provide a natural and healthy alternative to smoking and nicotine consumption. This technique helps to calm the nervous system and reduce the urge to smoke, making it easier for you to cope with the negative feelings often associated with quitting nicotine.

 

As an additional note, if you’re looking to quit nicotine, don’t jump in without a comprehensive plan. The more you do beforehand to navigate issues like withdrawal symptoms or triggers, the more successful you will be! Creating a support system, figuring out how to curb craving, and finding alternatives to hand-mouth habits can make a world of difference. Check out this article for more suggestions. 

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