July 21, 2024

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Zyn nicotine patches and teens: Are there health risks?

2 min read

Hunter “Ratch” Ratchford is an Alabama college student with 42,000 followers on TikTok. That’s where he posts, pretty much exclusively, about Zyn, a brand of flavored oral nicotine pouches that come in bright round cans and flavors like cool mint, citrus, and cinnamon.

Three years ago, says Ratch, one of his fraternity buddies introduced him to the product. “He said it helped him focus when he was having back-to-back classes, so I tried it,” he says, noting that it helped him too and that he liked the buzz. “I’ve been hooked ever since.”

Today, he says, he goes through a can to a can and a half a day—about 25 pouches total—placing a pouch between his gum and his lip or cheek around every 15 minutes to deliver the maximum-available-in-the-U.S. 6 mg of tobacco-free nicotine (compared to a cigarette’s 10-12 mg) directly to his bloodstream through the lining of his mouth. His frequent posts—sponsored by Snus Town, an online UK-based shop that sends him 10 cans a week to sample—range from dreaming up new Zyn flavors to simply declaring his love for the little white pouches.

And while Zyn’s website says its product is for adults 21 and over who currently use nicotine, Ratch, 22, says that he’d never smoked or vaped (and still hasn’t) when he started using as a teen. “Zyn is the only type of nicotine I’ve ever used,” he says.

Now he’s just one of the estimated 2.1% of adults (5.2 million people) using smokeless tobacco products in the U.S., according to latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (which do not break out nicotine pouches specifically).

Ratch is also not the only Zyn user to have started as a teen. According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey of 2023, an estimated 1.5% of high school and middle school students (more than half of them boys), representing 400,000 adolescents, use nicotine pouches—around the same percentage (1.6%) who smoke cigarettes, but much less than those…

Beth Greenfield

2024-06-07 20:11:00

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