Nicotine pouches might be less harmful than smoking or chewing tobacco, but they still pose an addiction risk to users, a new review finds.

These pouches are filled with crystallized nicotine, and are placed between the gums and lips, researchers said. They are sold in various flavors and nicotine strengths.

The pouches differ from Snus, which are used the same way but contain actual tobacco instead of crystallized nicotine.

“Oral nicotine pouches are rapidly increasing in popularity,” said researcher Nargiz Travis, project director for Georgetown University’s Center for the Assessment of Tobacco Regulations.

“While they may present a less harmful nicotine alternative for cigarette users, there is considerable concern about them becoming a new form of nicotine dependence, especially in youth who don’t use tobacco or nicotine,” Travis said in a Georgetown news release.

For the review, published June 16 in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, researchers analyzed 45 academic and 17 industry-funded studies of nicotine pouches.

About 1.5% of children and teens currently use the pouches, and under 2.5% of young people have ever tried them, researchers found.

However, as many as 42% of teens and young adults have heard of them, and as many as 21% of non-tobacco-using young people were not opposed to trying them.

One U.S. survey of young adults ages 18 to 34 found that among those who’d tried nicotine pouches, their main reasons for checking them out included curiosity (28%), flavors (26%) and the ability to use in places where other tobacco products are prohibited (26%).

Fewer harmful chemical compounds are present in the pouches, and they occur at lower levels than in cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, researchers said. The exception is formaldehyde, a chemical that is considered a potential cancer risk.

However, people should understand that these are tobacco products, even though they contain no tobacco leaves and are often marketed as tobacco-free, Travis said.

“In the U.S., oral nicotine pouches are currently neither authorized by the FDA for marketing as a modified-risk product nor approved as a cessation product,” Travis said. “It is important to know that nicotine is an addictive chemical with harmful health effects, regardless of whether it is synthetic, meaning tobacco-free, or derived from tobacco.”

Since the nicotine pouches are less regulated than smoking or vaping, the researchers believe they are becoming increasingly important to the U.S. tobacco industry.

“As more evidence on oral nicotine patches becomes available, and more importantly, more independent studies become published, it will be essential to conduct further analyses comparing the findings of industry vs. non-industry sponsored research and critically assess the quality and risk of bias of such studies,” Travis said.

More information

Johns Hopkins University has more on nicotine pouches.

SOURCE: Georgetown University, news release, June 16, 2024

Source: HealthDay

Comments are closed.