Politicians Are Getting Heated About Nicotine Pouches – But What Exactly Are They?

Forget vapes – there’s a new nicotine product on the block, and it’s safe to say it’s been getting people a bit riled up recently. Nicotine pouches, sold under brand names like Zyn and Velo, have been both lambasted and lauded by politicians, influencers, and parents when it comes to their supposed health effects. But what does science have to say? 

What are nicotine pouches?

Nicotine pouches are just that – small, teabag-like pouches containing varying amounts of nicotine. They’re usually also filled with food-grade fillers, sweeteners, and a whole host of different flavorings – like their vape cousins – but they don’t have any tobacco.

The pouches are designed to be placed between the upper lip or cheek and the gums. There, the nicotine within is released and absorbed by the gums, and once empty, or after a certain amount of time, the pouch is removed.

Why are people talking about them?

In late January, US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Federal Trade Commission to investigate the marketing and health effects of Zyn, saying that nicotine pouches pose a danger to young people, with social media influencers touting their alleged benefits.

Though some agreed it was important to find out more about the effects of the products, others were unhappy, to say the least. “Zyn is not a sin,” said political commentator Tucker Carlson, claiming that the pouches enhance “male vitality and mental acuity”.

Are nicotine pouches safe?

We can’t comment on the nature of nicotine pouches and sin, but what we can do is look at the science. 

When it comes to mental acuity, nicotine does have some known short-term effects. For example, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that “nicotine also temporarily boosts aspects of cognition, such as the ability to sustain attention and hold information in memory.” It can also give a brief feeling of euphoria thanks to an increase in dopamine in the brain’s reward circuits.

The key word there is “temporarily”. There’s one thing about nicotine that’s clear no matter how it’s dished up – it’s addictive. Whilst it might give a little boost to your brain and mood, NIDA also explains that “people in withdrawal from nicotine experience neurocognitive deficits such as problems with attention or memory.”

Other unpleasant side effects of using nicotine pouches might include a sore mouth or throat, nausea, gum irritation, or mouth ulcers.

But in spite of both proponents and opponents making some pretty bold claims, the actual long-term health impacts of nicotine pouches, and nicotine in general, are unknown. Some researchers think it could have lasting impacts on cardiovascular health, cancer risk, and brain development, but there’s a lack of substantial evidence either way. 

If you’re hoping for some guaranteed “male vitality”, it’s probably better to look elsewhere.

All “explainer” articles are confirmed by fact checkers to be correct at time of publishing. Text, images, and links may be edited, removed, or added to at a later date to keep information current. 

The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

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