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ZYN Nicotine Pouches: Experts Look at the Ingredients

ZYN is gaining more and more popularity. But what exactly are the ingredients, and are they more beneficial or harmful than smoking cigarettes or vaping?

Nicotine pouches sold under brand names like ZYN, VELO, and others have become a hot commodity in the United States. So hot, that revenues from these products are expected to reach $2 billion in the United States this year.

The popularity of nicotine pouches has exploded on TikTok and other social media sites, with some influencers touting ZYN as the new Ozempic for weight loss and others promoting even more dangerous practices, such as soaking ZYN in deer blood for "saving digestive energy."

ZYN and similar products contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance that some experts say equals the addictive power of heroin. While some people use nicotine pouches to quit smoking or vaping, believing it's a "safer" nicotine alternative, other ZYN users never smoked or vaped before using the product — which could lead to addiction.

However, in addition to nicotine, ZYN pouches contain several other ingredients — some of which appear safe and others that may pose potential health risks.

What's in a ZYN?

According to ZYN's website, the pouches contain several ingredients, including:

  • Nicotine bitartrate dihydrate: a pharmaceutical-grade version of nicotine salt found in tobacco plants.
  • Hydroxypropyl cellulose: a plant-based stabilizer.
  • Microcrystalline cellulose, maltitol, and gum arabic: fillers commonly found in chewing gum.
  • Sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate: pH adjusters used in some foods.
  • Acesulfame K: an artificial sweetener.

To determine whether these ingredients have any potential health effects, Healthnews researchers Alifia Jokubauskiene and Rugilė Kančaitė examined the evidence and found that some may have benefits while others could carry risks.

For example, the researchers suggest that nicotine salt's main benefit is that it reduces nicotine withdrawal symptoms in people trying to stop smoking and may increase quitting success rates.

However, in people who don't use tobacco products, nicotine salts can lead to addiction.

The research team also noted that stabilizers and fillers found in ZYN pouches, including hydroxypropyl cellulose, microcrystalline cellulose, maltitol, and gum arabic, are considered safe when used as additives.

However, some research shows that sodium carbonate used in snuff products may be associated with a higher risk of oral mucosal lesions. Still, the researchers say this evidence should be interpreted with caution, as snuff contains tobacco, while nicotine pouches don't.

Acesulfame K is an artificial sweetener generally considered safe in moderate amounts and poses little risk for developing dental caries and other mouth conditions. However, one study found that adults who consumed acesulfame-K had a slightly higher risk of cancer than those who did not consume the artificial sweetener.

Finally, Jokubauskiene and Kančaitė found that flavors used in nicotine pouches may be associated with periodontitis, as they may induce microbial dysbiosis and can negatively affect immune responses in the mouth.

What else does science say about ZYN safety?

Although evidence regarding the safety of nicotine pouches is limited, a 2022 study examined the toxicant levels of 26 compounds in three Swedish snus products, nicotine gum and lozenges, and four Lyft (British American Tobacco) nicotine pouches. Compared with snus, nicotine pouches, gum, and lozenges contained lower levels of 10 harmful and potentially harmful constituents.

In addition, a 2023 study found that dry and moist ZYN products contained no nitrosamines (classified as potentially carcinogenic) or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (compounds linked to cancer and other conditions) but did contain low levels of ammonia, chromium, formaldehyde, and nickel.

For comparison, tobacco smoke contains more than 60 cancer-causing compounds. Moreover, while the potential dangers of vaping are poorly understood, researchers have found several toxic and potentially cancer-causing chemicals in e-cigarettes.

These include acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, and acrolein — a herbicide — as well as heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead.

Smoking Tobacco E Cigarette
Image by Andrey_Popov via Shutterstock

Potential benefits of nicotine pouches

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only authorized the sale of four oral tobacco products that met necessary safety standards. As of April 2024, the agency has not authorized any ZYN product for sale in the U.S. So, overall, the safety of ZYN remains unknown.

Still, nicotine pouches like ZYN may have benefits for some individuals who already use tobacco or other products that contain nicotine. For example, Jokubauskiene and Kančaitė note that a clinical oral health study involving current daily snus users found that replacing snus with ZYN Dry resulted in less harm to the soft tissue of the mouth and fewer snus-induced lesions.

Moreover, while research is limited, a study published this year found evidence from human behavioral research that nicotine pouches can support individuals who are transitioning away from smoking or reducing their cigarette consumption.

Nonetheless, Jokubauskiene and Kančaitė point out that ZYN still delivers nicotine, which is a toxic and addictive substance, and exposure is associated with cardiovascular and other health issues. In addition, people can experience side effects from using ZYN and similar products, including irritation of the gums, mouth soreness, hiccups, and nausea.

What's more, nicotine pouches pose significant health and addiction risks for adolescents and young adults, as they contain nicotine, traces of toxic metals, and flavorings that are attractive to young people.

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