Nicotine pouches are smokeless and spitless products containing nicotine, flavorings, and other ingredients.

These pouches are designed to be placed in the mouth, similar to chewing tobacco or snus, but they don’t contain tobacco leaves. Instead, they often use plant-based materials as fillers.

While nicotine pouches are generally considered less harmful than smoking, they’re not entirely risk-free and can still lead to nicotine addiction.

Nicotine pouches are primarily used as a smokeless tobacco alternative to deliver nicotine to users without the need for smoking or traditional chewing tobacco.

While nicotine pouches aren’t designed specifically for quitting smoking, some people use them as a harm reduction strategy or an alternative to smoking to reduce their exposure to harmful tobacco smoke.

The use of nicotine pouches carries some potential side effects and risks, including:

  • Nicotine addiction: Nicotine is an addictive substance, and using nicotine pouches can lead to nicotine addiction or dependence.
  • Mouth and gum irritation: Some users may experience mouth or gum irritation, especially if they’re sensitive to nicotine or the ingredients in the pouch.
  • Dental conditions: Using nicotine pouches may contribute to dental conditions like gum recession or tooth decay.
  • Gastrointestinal upset: Swallowing excess saliva from the pouch can lead to stomach upset or nausea in some individuals.
  • Allergic reactions: Some people may be allergic to specific ingredients in nicotine pouches, leading to allergic reactions.

Nicotine pouches differ from other nicotine or tobacco products in several ways, but whether they’re safer depends on the specific product and your health goals.

Here’s a comparison:

  • No tobacco: Unlike traditional tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, or chewing tobacco, nicotine pouches don’t contain tobacco leaves. This is significant because many harmful compounds associated with tobacco combustion, like tar and carcinogenic chemicals, are absent.
  • Nicotine content: Nicotine pouches, like e-cigarettes, offer varying nicotine levels, unlike cigarettes with consistent nicotine content. An analysis of 44 pouches revealed nicotine content ranging from 1.79–47.5 milligrams per pouch, often with an 8.8 pH and approximately 86% free-base nicotine (a more readily absorbed form of nicotine).
  • Delivery method: Nicotine pouches are typically placed between the cheek and the gum, allowing nicotine to be absorbed through the lining of the mouth. Cigarettes involve inhaling nicotine through smoke, while e-cigarettes involve vaporized nicotine inhalation.
  • Addictiveness: Nicotine pouches and other nicotine products can be addictive due to the presence of nicotine, regardless of the delivery method.
  • Side effects: The side effects associated with nicotine pouches can vary from person to person, including mouth or gum irritation, nausea, and nicotine dependence. These side effects might differ from smoking or other tobacco products but can still pose health risks.

Are nicotine pouches similar to chewing tobacco?

Nicotine pouches and chewing tobacco are similar in the sense that they’re both smokeless tobacco products placed between the gum and cheek. However, they have some key differences:

  • Ingredients: Nicotine pouches contain synthetic nicotine, flavorings, and other ingredients but no tobacco leaf. Chewing tobacco is made from tobacco leaves — when it’s chewed, it releases nicotine and various harmful chemicals.
  • Spitting: Chewing tobacco typically requires users to spit out the excess saliva that builds up during use. Nicotine pouches, on the other hand, are spitless. Users don’t need to spit while using them, making them more discreet.

While both products deliver nicotine, nicotine pouches are generally considered less harmful than chewing tobacco due to their lower levels of harmful chemicals and the absence of tobacco leaves.

Are nicotine pouches popular?

Nicotine pouches are relatively new to the market, gaining popularity in recent years as an alternative to traditional tobacco products.

In a population study of young people in the United States, between December 2021 and May 2022, 16% of participants had tried nicotine pouches at some point, with 12% currently using them.

Those currently using pouches were more likely to be ages 21 or older, male, and have lower incomes. Importantly, 73% of current pouch users, and 33% of those who had used pouches in the past but weren’t current users, also reported smoking cigarettes.

Nicotine pouches are promoted as a safer alternative to traditional smoking since they don’t involve burning tobacco. However, the long-term health consequences of prolonged use remain a subject of ongoing research.

Like e-cigarettes, nicotine pouches vary in their nicotine content. While they might be a better choice compared to smoking, it’s important to note that nicotine itself carries health risks.

The varying nicotine levels in different pouches can also be a potential concern. In summary, nicotine pouches are potentially less harmful than smoking, but their overall health impact still necessitates further research for a comprehensive understanding.