Nicotine pouches are among the fastest-growing nicotine delivery products in the US. According to data, nicotine pouch dollar sales increased by 470% over the first half of 2020. People are drawn to them due to their discreet nature, availability of flavors, and the perception of reduced harm compared to traditional tobacco products.
Nicotine pouches are particularly appealing to those concerned about the adverse effects of smoking and seeking alternative methods to satisfy their nicotine cravings. The absence of smoke and tobacco leaf in nicotine pouches gives users the impression that they are making a safer choice.
But what many people don’t know is that nicotine pouches still contain nicotine. In fact, their nicotine concentration levels are comparable to moist snuff and snus and often exceed levels found in nicotine replacement therapy products. As such, transitioning from smoking to using nicotine pouches can mean inadvertently trading one addiction for another.
This article will discuss the hidden dangers of nicotine pouches and provide steps to quit their use.
What are Nicotine Pouches?
Nicotine pouches are small, dissolvable microfiber pouches pre-filled with nicotine salt powder, flavorings, and sweeteners. They are designed to deliver nicotine to the user without smoking or chewing tobacco. They are typically placed between the gum and lip, where they slowly release nicotine into the bloodstream through the oral mucosa.
Some popular brands of pouches include Zyn, Velo, and On!, and they come in colorful packaging that looks like mint containers. Note that nicotine and toxin levels vary significantly from brand to brand. For example, Zyn products, which are among the most popular in the market, have nicotine levels of up to 6mg per pouch.
Are Nicotine Pouches Safe?
The safety of nicotine pouches is a topic that requires careful consideration. While they are often marketed as a potentially safer alternative to smoking, it is essential to recognize that the long-term effects of this nicotine delivery method are still largely unknown.
The FDA classifies nicotine pouches as smokeless tobacco products rather than smoking cessation devices or pharmaceutical products. This classification means that they are not regulated as strictly as smoked tobacco products, such as cigarettes.
The lack of stringent regulation and the limited research on pouches contribute to the challenge of determining their safety. The scientific community has not yet gathered sufficient long-term data to fully understand the potential health risks associated with the sustained use of these pouches.
Even though nicotine pouches do not involve tobacco combustion and the associated exposure to harmful smoke and carcinogens, they still contain nicotine. Nicotine can lead to a range of health risks:
Nicotine Addiction: Nicotine is highly addictive, and nicotine pouches can lead to nicotine addiction. Regular use of nicotine pouches can create a physical addiction, making it challenging to quit or reduce usage. Attempts to quit nicotine may result in withdrawal symptoms such as cravings, irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and mood changes.
Cardiovascular Effects: Nicotine can have adverse effects on the cardiovascular system. It can increase heart rate, elevate blood pressure, and constrict blood vessels, which can strain the heart and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke.
Oral Health Issues: Placing nicotine pouches in the mouth for an extended period may negatively affect oral health. Continuous exposure to nicotine and other chemicals in the pouches can potentially lead to gum irritation, inflammation, and damage to the oral tissues.
Respiratory Effects: While oral pouches do not involve smoking or inhaling smoke, they can still impact the respiratory system. Nicotine in the body can cause bronchial constriction and inflammation, potentially worsening respiratory conditions such as asthma.
Nicotine Poisoning: Misuse or overuse of pouches can lead to nicotine poisoning, especially in individuals not accustomed to high nicotine levels. Symptoms of nicotine poisoning include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, increased heart rate, and seizures or respiratory distress in severe cases.
Potential Gateway to Tobacco Use: The availability of flavored pouches and the appeal of a smokeless alternative may attract non-smokers, particularly young individuals, who may be more prone to experimentation. This can increase the risk of initiating tobacco use and developing long-term addiction.
How to Quit Using Nicotine Pouches
Nicotine can be as addictive as any other substance of abuse. But the good news is that it is possible to quit using pouches entirely with the right mindset and strategies. Here are quitting strategies to help you stop using:
Start by finding your motivation to quit. Reflect on why you want to stop using pouches. This could include improving your health, saving money, setting a positive example for others, or regaining control over your life. Write down your motivations and refer to them whenever you need a reminder of why you’re quitting.
Choose a specific date to quit using nicotine pouches. This will give you a clear starting point and something to work towards. Make sure the date is realistic and allows you enough time to prepare yourself mentally and gather support.
Determine the best approach for you when it comes to quitting pouches. Some people prefer a gradual reduction method, gradually decreasing the number of pouches used over time. Others may choose to quit “cold turkey,” completely stopping the use of nicotine pouches from the designated quit date. Choose the method that aligns with your personality and preferences.
Inform your family, friends, and loved ones about your decision to quit using. Their support and understanding can make a significant difference during challenging moments.
Consider joining support groups or seeking professional help from a healthcare provider or counselor specializing in addiction. They can provide guidance, accountability, additional tools, and behavioral therapy to assist you in your personal journey. Pay attention to situations, activities, or emotions that trigger the urge to use nicotine pouches. Common triggers include psychological aspects like stress, social situations, boredom, or certain habits. Recognizing these triggers allows you to develop strategies to avoid or manage them effectively.
Find healthy alternatives to replace the act of using pouches. Engage in activities that distract you and provide a sense of fulfillment or relaxation. This can include exercising, practicing mindfulness or meditation, pursuing hobbies, or spending time with supportive friends and family.
Quitting nicotine pouches may involve setbacks and challenges. It’s important to stay positive and maintain a mindset of resilience. Remember that slips or relapses are common but don’t define your journey. Learn from any mistakes and use them as opportunities to strengthen your commitment to quitting.
Acknowledge and reward yourself for achieving milestones along the way. Celebrate your progress, whether a day, a week, or a month, without nicotine pouches. Treat yourself to something you enjoy, or use the money you’ve saved to do something special.
The allure of a smoke-free, odorless nicotine delivery method may be appealing, but you should know that nicotine pouches do not eliminate the underlying addiction to nicotine. Quitting nicotine altogether remains the most effective way to improve overall health and well-being. If you’re seeking assistance overcoming nicotine addiction, it is best to consult healthcare professionals who can guide and support you in developing a comprehensive cessation plan.
Struggling With Addiction is a drug use & rehabilitation blog that also lists potential danger sites, and lifts some facilities that reach high levels of accreditation & have good track records of treatment.