Nicotine Pouch – What’s All the Fuss About?

WASHINGTON — It’s a tiny product that’s generating big buzz among teens and adults. Known as nicotine pouches, or nipples, these small, tobacco-free sacks are one of the fastest growing nicotine delivery products in the United States. They look like little tea bags and can deliver as much nicotine as medicinal gum or lozenges used to help people quit smoking, with a similar toxicity profile. They’re sold under a range of brand names, including ZYN, Verve, Rogue, on! and NIIN, and they are placed between the lip and gums. They’re often marketed as an alternative to traditional smoking and are available in flavors like mint, coffee and citrus. The smokless, smokeless design also makes them popular among people who don’t want to be bothered by cigarettes and their fumes.

These small, white pouches typically contain nicotine — either extracted from tobacco leaf or made synthetically — along with other ingredients such as plant fibers which act as fillers and give the pouches their shape, sweeteners, and flavorings. They don’t contain any tobacco leaf or stem, which distinguishes them from other “smokeless” nicotine products like chewing tobacco and snuff.

Because of their discreet nature, users can use them in places where it would be difficult or inappropriate to use a traditional cigarette. They can be taken in public transportation or during work meetings without others noticing. The small, discreet size also makes them popular among people who want to avoid the dreaded staining that occurs when using other oral nicotine products such as snus or gum.

Despite their many benefits, the popularity of these new devices has raised concerns about whether they are contributing to nicotine addiction and underage use. And if used incorrectly, they can cause irritation to the mouth or gums and may lead to gastrointestinal issues such as nausea and stomach upset.

Another concern is that the popularity of these nicotine pouches could discourage smokers from quitting. Nicotine is addictive, and many smokers who’ve tried to quit with pouches and other alternative nicotine delivery products have found that they relapsed when they stopped using them.

While they don’t involve inhaling vapor, nicotine pouches can still cause respiratory issues because of the abrasive nature of the plant fibers they’re composed of. In addition, some pouches contain glycerin, which can be harmful when swallowed or ingested over long periods of time.

Nicotine pouches are a relatively new and rapidly emerging category of tobacco products with limited research and regulatory oversight. In this piece, Meghan Moran, PhD, and Tory Spindler, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, outline potential areas for future research to maximize the category’s public health potential and minimize unintended consequences.

Nicotine pouches offer a discreet, smoke-free way to consume nicotine, gaining popularity globally. These small, pre-portioned pouches, placed between the gum and lip, dissolve slowly, delivering nicotine and flavor without combustion or secondhand smoke. Marketed as a convenient alternative to smoking or vaping, they come in various flavors and nicotine strengths, appealing to a broad range of users. While proponents highlight their potential as harm reduction tools, critics raise concerns about addiction and health risks. As regulatory scrutiny increases, understanding the impact of nicotine pouches on public health becomes paramount.