ZYN Ban and the FDA: What's in store for nicotine pouches?
Erik Rosengren - Snusexpert
16 April, 2024
7 min

ZYN Ban and the FDA: What's in store for nicotine pouches?

The FDA has turned its head towards nicotine pouches, and it seems things are going awry. The Republicans and Democrats are duking it out over what should happen to ZYN nicotine pouches and other brands, while retailers sit in uncertainty. 

In the second week of April, the FDA issued warning letters to three ZYN retailers in the states. Meanwhile, the debate about more regulations and restrictions raged on in the house. We'll break down everything for you.

What Started the ZYN Ban?

The main cause for concern and the argument for more regulations on ZYN is its potential popularity among teens and young adults. It's one of the most popular nicotine pouch brands in the US and has racked up a lot of support, even from influencers like Joe Rogan. 

According to a CDC report, ZYN sales doubled to $1 billion in 2023. The fourth quarter conference call of Philip Morris International reports outstanding growth. Their non tobacco products had the most success.

This success brought ZYN into the eyes of the regulatory authorities and the Senate. It also brought ZYN head on against vaping and cigarette companies because ZYN is an alternative to cigarettes. It has unraveled ZYN's gray legality in the US.

History of ZYN Regulations and FDA

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and ZYN have had a tumultuous relationship. ZYN entered the US market in 2014. Back then, the regulations surrounding cigarettes, chewing tobacco, snus, and dip were quite lax. 

Initially, ZYN didn't have a very successful run, and it was overshadowed by flavored vapes. By the end of 2019, the popularity of vapes had spread to schools and children. The FDA stepped in to restrict vape use, because of its addictive and attractive properties.

ZYN, which was not yet regularized, soon became very popular across the states. Influencers and politicians alike publicized it. To this day, the FDA has not authorized ZYN, but simultaneously, ZYN use is legal across the states.

ZYN's Authorization Issues

ZYN applied for authorization in 2020, and the application is still under review. The company itself asked the FDA to investigate ZYN products. However, since these are new nicotine products, their regulation is a bit tricky. 

Although ZYN pouches are safer compared to other alternatives, they still contain nicotine. Furthermore, their fruity flavors could attract attention from children and teens. The FDA has time and time again stated their intention of monitoring “any tobacco product that may appeal to youth.”

While ZYN is tobacco-free, the FDA and other members are worried that ZYN could become the new vape. According to a National Youth Survey from the CDC, only 1.5% of ZYN users are children, nevertheless, it still warrants care and caution.

ZYN's Advertisement Issues

Another major reason why ZYN has yet to be authorized is its advertisements. The FDA is dedicated to keeping products with alarming levels of nicotine away from children. That's why the FDA took a heavy handed approach to Juuls and vapes for advertising to children.

According to a report by the FTC, nicotine pouch brands spent well over $25 million on advertisements. While it's a meager amount compared to Big Tobacco and E-cigarettes companies, the figure is still alarming for the FDA and FTC.

What's even more concerning is the promotion of the products through influencers. For example, a YouTuber promoted ZYN on his channel, which caters to teens and young adults. The product is widely publicized on TikTok, Instagram, and other social media.

Risky ZYN challenges

The prevalent use of social media among teens and ZYN's publicity are alarming for senators. What's even more harrowing are the risky challenges and trends that people associate with ZYN. For example, one challenge title, “Mouth Stuffing” portrayed a streamer filling his mouth with ZYNs.

This trend could easily lead to a nicotine overdose and other dangerous issues. For better clarity, ZYN has printed a method on how to properly use nicotine pouches on their cans. At the same time, the influence of social media on children and teens cannot be denied.

Videos of young people popping ZYN pouches have garnered millions of views. The way that nicotine pouches are becoming a sub-culture in teens is risky and dangerous. 

Advocates of Increased Regulations on ZYN 

The advocates of increased regulations on ZYN are mostly from the Democratic side. Chuck Schumer, a popular Democrat, is championing the cause because ZYN influencers are putting American kids at risk of addiction.

Senator Schumer believes that tobacco-free nicotine pouches need to be regularized heavily. It will in turn prevent their spread and adoption in teens and young adults. Please note, that the sale of ZYN to anyone under the age of 21 in the US is illegal.

Senator Schumer's concerns are valid because there have been cases of underage ZYN sale. In fact, the FDA sent letters to three different retailers in the US for selling ZYNs to underage teens. 

Opposers of Increased Regulations on ZYN

Opponents of increased regulations on ZYN argue the effect this would have on tobacco. For example, ZYNs are often used as a harm-reduction tool. The lack of access to ZYN could spark an increase in tobacco, vaping, and other nicotine product use. 

The Republicans are clearly against increased regulations on ZYN. Richard Hudson went as far as to say, “Schumer doesn’t want us to chew or smoke.” Other Republicans stated that America was the land of the free and adults were allowed to make their choices.

Marjorie Taylor Greene called out the Democrats for their hypocrisy on nicotine products. On one side, they were advocating for the legalization of drugs, and on the other they were banning ZYN. 

Considerations in the Arguments about ZYN

We looked at both sides of the table and made some points. There are three main flaws and considerations in the arguments. We'll discuss them in detail:

ZYN is not as harmful as tobacco

According to contemporary research, ZYN is not as harmful as tobacco and other nicotine products. In fact, a researcher in New Castle University claims that current research shows no correlation between ZYN and cancer.

Increasing regulations on ZYN as a whole would hinder people. Naturally, they would turn to cigarettes and other smoke-producing agents to relieve their cravings. It would have a more negative impact.

ZYN does need more research

Nicotine pouches as a whole are a new branch of stimulant addictive products. The effects of nicotine have been covered thoroughly, but there is little to no research on the long-term effects of nicotine pouches. The FDA and Congress must probe the topic to ensure the health of everyone involved.

In the same way, other brands like VELO should also be regularized and probed. With the right research, the FDA can allay the fears of ZYN negatively affecting health and settle the matter once and for all.

ZYN needs more scrutiny

There have been controversies surrounding ZYN's marketing. In 2020, three legislators filed a complaint against ZYN for claiming to be authorized by the FDA. ZYN is, to this day, not authorized and is pending a review. 

In April 2024, the Schmidt National Law Group filed a lawsuit against ZYN for false and malicious advertising. According to the group, ZYN has been advertising to children and young adults, which is malpractice and dangerous.

The claims of underage ZYN sale further back this claim. While we must admit, this has more to do with retailers, who aren't bothered by the demographics of their customers. It is still alarming, and the FDA needs to tighten their grip on unauthorized and irresponsible retailers. 

What Will Increased Regulations Mean for ZYN Users?

Senator Schumer has clarified his stance on ZYN. According to him, despite what people believe, he doesn't want a complete ban on the product. Instead, he wants more accountability and scrutiny to prevent the products from spilling into vulnerable teens.

Based on this, we can assume that the products will remain in the US. The only change we may see is increased KYC (Know Your Customer) policies from retailers. We could also see an increase in prices because of lobbying, but that is purely speculation. 

On the flip side, if the FDA decides to ban ZYN altogether, it will become illegal in the states. ZYN's review has been pending since 2020, and the Democratic nudge might accelerate the process. Either way, we could see regularization or a ban.

Conclusion: The ZYN Ban is Still Uncertain

With congress taking an interest in ZYN, we could see increased scrutiny. However, the final verdict is still murky as the Republicans and Democrats duke it out. Furthermore, ZYN has yet to be authorized by the FDA like nicotine gum and lozenges.

The fears that ZYN could become the latest nicotine phenomenon in teens is alarming. We believe that ZYN requires more research and regularization. Retailers need to be managed more effectively to prevent underage sale of ZYN.