Zyn nicotine pouches on sale for adults 21+ at Gs Liquor in Fairfax.
Zyn nicotine pouches on sale for adults 21+ at G’s Liquor in Fairfax.
Luca Roy

The Zyn: nicotine addiction adapts new form at Archie Williams

With the conception of the vape detector, schools across the nation have gradually acclimated to the prevention of E-Cigarette usage. However, in recent years, a new manifestation of nicotine consumption has emerged. Zyn nicotine pouches, or Zyns, present a tobacco-free alternative to nicotine use and recently surged in popularity in the U.S.

Tobacco company Swedish Match, a subsidiary of American Tobacco company Philip Morris International since 2022, introduced Zyns to the United States in 2014. According to CNN, Zyn received minimal attention until an unprecedented surge in popularity in 2023, during which about 350 million cans of Zyn were shipped, a 62 percent growth from 2022. 

“[I typically have] three to four Zyn [pouches per week],” said an anonymous sophomore at Archie Williams using the pseudonym Alex. “I see [Zyns] being used very commonly now [at Archie Williams]. You can see used Zyns all over the floors, walls, everywhere [on campus].”

Zyn appeals to consumers with its discrete nature, a small pouch to place within the mouth, between the gum and the lip. Marketed as a cleaner and more socially acceptable approach to nicotine consumption, Zyn has gained traction amongst teenagers, especially in high school settings. Alex prefers Zyn to alternative sources of nicotine, such as cigarettes, E-cigarettes, or snus.

“[I use Zyns] because they’re easy to conceal, and it takes less effort to use [compared to combustible nicotine products],” Alex said. 

Teachers also observe an increase in the popularity of Zyn. Physical Education teacher Tim Parnow has noticed the discrete nature of Zyn usage. 

“[Zyns are] unnoticeable. I mean, if someone’s using tobacco, there’s either a smell or they’re spitting or something like that. But with Zyns it’s kind of hidden, and you don’t know if kids are doing them or not. I could be talking to someone and they could have a Zyn in their mouth, and I would have zero idea,” Parnow said.

Parnow also warns young users about Zyn’s addictive properties. 

“Be cautious when it comes to [Zyn], because I know nicotine is super addictive. It’s something that can easily become addicting and really hard to quit, or lead to chewing tobacco or smoking cigarettes,” Parnow said.

Zyn offers a wide variety of flavors, including citrus, coffee, and cinnamon. However, only mint and menthol flavors are legally available in California, following the passing of Proposition 31 in 2022. Although Zyns do not contain tobacco, they were not exempt from the regulations of Proposition 31.

“I think [Zyn’s flavors] make them more enticing. At first, I started using the unflavored Zyns, but once I got introduced to flavored Zyns I started using them way more often,” Alex said. 

According to Alex, Archie Williams students still find ways to attain and distribute outlawed flavors.

“I have seen many flavors that are illegal in California still in circulation at Archie Williams. I’ve even heard of students going to states like Nevada or Colorado and buying flavored Zyns to redistribute here,” Alex said. 

While Zyns may be perceived as a safer alternative to smoking, they still present health risks, especially for young users. Nicotine, the addictive substance found in Zyn pouches, has detrimental effects on adolescent brain development, potentially leading to long-term cognitive and behavioral issues. Additionally, the use of nicotine products, even in non-combustible forms like Zyn, can increase the risk of addiction and serve as a gateway to other substance abuse.

The anonymous sophomore claims to be aware of the physical effects of Zyn usage. However, they prefer using Zyn as opposed to combustible nicotine products. 

“[Zyns can cause] gum sores, mouth cancer, but really since Zyns are such a newer product, I think there haven’t been enough studies done on it yet to understand the real dangers of it,” Alex said. “Although Zyns are still very dangerous, I would rather not be inhaling smoke into my lungs, which makes Zyns seem less bad.”

Specialist orthodontist of Haney Orthodontics, Dr. Eric Haney, believes Zyn usage may lead to poor oral health amongst users.

“[Zyns] definitely could be related to gum sores, because it can cause a mechanical irritation depending on how long you keep it in your mouth, and of course your predisposition. Some people have fragile gingiva, so things that most people can withstand, they are more susceptible to. It’s definitely possible [for Zyns] to cause gum recession,” Haney said. 

Because Zyns are a fairly new product, the lack of professional research poses an additional threat to users. Haney believes that this will encourage a push to evaluate its effects. 

“There is going to be a push to evaluate [the effects of Zyns],” Haney said. “[Zyn] definitely isn’t helpful, and it does create an addiction to nicotine. There are a lot of other nicotine delivery systems, smoking, snuff, vaping, and all those have been documented as causing problems like lung cancer and oral health issues.”

Haney warns of the dangers of chemicals in Zyn products. According to Haney, health professionals are unaware of the impacts Zyn usage may provoke.

“And there’s also the added chemicals that are used, whether they’re for flavoring or how the nicotine is produced. We don’t know the impact those chemicals might have on the normal oral bacteria in your mouth,” Haney said.

Using nicotine directly correlates to a decrease in mental health and increased anxiety. A study conducted by Truth Initiative, a nonprofit tobacco and nicotine control organization, found that the usage of nicotine can worsen depression and raise anxiety levels. In the study conducted, nearly 2,500 ninth graders who had never previously used e-cigarettes or combustible tobacco experienced a decrease in mental health and an increase in anxiety after beginning use.

Despite health risks associated with such nicotine products, Zyn nicotine pouches continue to be used by students at Archie Williams. While students and faculty claim to be aware of Zyn’s effects, little research has been conducted. As Zyn grows in popularity, a push to investigate the impacts of Zyn will likely follow. 

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