Zyn, Zonnic, and the nicotine pouch craze



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Hi I’m elain Chow upper Dei Zimbabwe gum pillows whether those terms mean anything to you might depend on your social media algorithm in or out zins oh hell in so in why not little lip pillow Li pillow in love Z in always in always in okay

Why are they always in cuz they make the night better vaping Zin snoo in Sweden and now zic in Canada are all names for nicotine pouches they’ve been showing up all over the place from Major League Baseball dugouts to The Joe Rogan Experience recently a novel non-tobacco nicotine product Zin has been developed

Is Sim similar to Snus I never knew how to say that okay thank you I think however it contains no Nitro is that the word nitroamines or polyic hydrocarbons okay what does that mean I don’t know what they just say but as the pouches gain popularity people are also

Pretty divided about them some say they’re a helpful tool for people looking to quit smoking or vaping I need to put my zins in I’m not vaping anymore there you go good for you I had to quit because my mom hates it others are more cynical soaring sales worldwide have led

Some European countries to actually ban the product later in the episode I’ll talk to the cbc’s marina Von stackelberg about zic that’s the nicotine pouch that just hit stor shelves in Canada last month but first Ashwin Rodriguez is a freelance journalist who’s reported on the nicotine pouches for GQ he’s here to

Explain what they are what all the hype’s about and what big tobacco has to do with it Hi ashwan how are you I’m good how’s it going I’m well I’m well so I know that these nicotine pouches are all over social media but let’s just start with

What they actually are so like what are these nicotine pouches and how do they work nicotine pouches typically come in a can of about 15 or 20 pouches and they’re filled with like a white nicotine powder that’s derived from tobacco and that’s different from usual

Um products that you see in that type of container which is usually smokeless tobacco which contains actual ground tobacco leaves amongst a bunch of other things right so this isn’t chewing tobacco like where you put the tobacco leaves and your cheek and suck on them and then you have to like constantly

Spit out brown tobacco goo like that’s not what this is correct yeah so you don’t need a water bottle full of brown goo at your desk there are lots of Brands uh offering pouches uh and different flavors as well yeah so I’ll use the example here in the states the

Company with the largest market share is Zin and they have cool mint peppermint winter greens spearm minint Menthol chill and those are just like the minty flavors but they also have cinnamon Citrus and coffee so asides from coffee it’s kind of what I would expect for gum flavors right um

And I also was looking at their UK website where they have fancier flavors like Bellini and espressino o espressino yeah which I think is a madeup word but and and like the way yeah and the packaging as well is quite similar to gum yeah so it’s very bright and um you

Know kind of fun and that’s my description not zin’s you know very poppy colors and usually positioned at like a very prominent place at a point of sale in a deli or um I don’t know if you use the term Bodega in Canada we we don’t quite use the term Bodega I would

Say like Dean in like Montreal would be another term but we are familiar with the Boda term okay yeah we’re very obnoxious about that term here so I figured what are the rules like around who can buy zins in the US so in us it’s 21 plus you know usually they check your

ID just like you would if you were buying a pack of cigarettes or a vape you know you mentioned Zin that particular brand has really become a cultural phenomenon um as well right like there’s like this meme of the Pope where someone has replaced a communion

Wafer with a zenton um you know one of our producers um the other day found a photo online of a flag that says Zen over top of an image of Osama bin Laden decked out in like top branded sunglasses and and a sash and and like

What does that say to you about who this is for it seems like based on the personalities at least that are you know talking about this stuff online and making these kind of memes a kind of young frat white dude how much wood could a wood truck chuck if a wood chuck

Could rip upper neckies in Upper necky liit pillows for who likes to you know kind of make up these nicknames and memes for these things yo do you have any extra um ziny Crosby for me buddy I got a couple Monica lazinski you know they call zins Zimbabwe which then morphed into African

Sugar as a riff on Zimbabwe they call them gum pillows but the thing that’s really funny to me about all of this is one of the pitches and appeals of something like this is that it’s a very discret product so to consume it and make an online personality about it in

Such a flashy way seems very ironic to me right right but there there are kind of some notable people who have been using it and talking about it like I mentioned Joe Rogan in our in our introduction Tucker Carlson also said that he’s um a big fan don’t get me

Going so I use it you know every second awake and and in bed I’m not embarrassed of it you sleep with one in or no I don’t because I don’t want to choke on it but seconds I read in bed so seconds before I fall asleep I take it out I’ve

Never had one of my dogs eat a Zin pouch though I’m not against it and you’ve kind of written about these like zinf fluenc on Tik Tok right and tell me a bit more about them yeah and that was something that I actually came across through reporting the piece where we had

Discovered it was a phenomenon outside of Tik Tok first I’m not really on there that much but then again like I found it very fascinating that people were creating a personality you know I checked today and videos tagged with Zin have over 292 million views but yeah

Again it’s just like very fratty and I think it’s just become part of a routine you know like people talk about waking up having their coffee having their Zin and it’s kind of become a big thing in the kind of biohacking world right like where like people kind of switch up

Their diet or lifestyle for improvements to their health in the biohacking world nicotine in general is considered a neut Tropic or cognitive enhancer nicotine is an amazing neut Tropic love but the the delivery device will kill you vaping’s not good for you smoking is not good for

You dipping is not good for you snuffing is not good for you in Scandinavia they use the little Zin pouches and you can focus like a laser and I don’t need not necessarily just ni ncoe pouches but you’ve seen people experimenting with nicotine patches as well for benefits

Such as like mental Clarity and concentration you know Z was introduced in Us in 2016 and just how huge is it now I was looking at a study and it says that nicotine pouch sales increased from 126 million units from August to December 2019 to over 800 million units from

January to March 22 and that’s with Zin holding nearly 60% market share so it has blown up and I think the reasons for for that are multiple you know they can be a cheaper reduced risk alternative to smoking is what Zin has said and what I

Will also say is that it seems that the people are you know trying to move away from cigarettes and people are to some extent seeming to try to move away from vaping so I think you know there’s a clear appeal there um I also want to get

Into a little bit about you know it’s the market for these things are not just uh in in the US they have a global appeal um and they’re particularly huge in uh Sweden and there it’s called snoo and it comes in two versions one that contains tobacco one that’s got uh

Synthetic nicotine like uh we have in the US and Canada and can you tell me a little bit about its popularity o over there yeah so based on my research and what I’ve seen like it’s obviously a huge part of the culture there but one of the things that I was reading and

This is like right from the Swedish match website is that Napoleon apparently was a major snoo user and I will note just so people don’t think I’m an ignorant American that Napoleon was not Swedish but snoo really popped off there apparently like in the late 1960s when the dangers of smoking

Started to be like really more wellknown it’s almost like what happened in Sweden kind of set the stage for its popularity elsewhere in the world yeah I mean if it became popular because they wanted to get off smoking they were like you know decades ahead of the trend how much of

That is what’s happening now I is unclear coming back to something that you mentioned earlier you know the tobacco companies that produce these pouches they really tout them as um a a better alternative to smoking cigarettes and you know how accurate um how accurate is that like what what do we actually know

About the safety of products like Zin so the thing that’s interesting is that since this is a not overnight success but relatively quick success and relatively new product the long-term health impact is kind of still unknown and in reporting out the story that I did in speaking with experts they were

Open to the idea that people could use these for you know quitting smoking or transitioning off of vaping but there’s not any really hard data to support that and the same goes for the risks in terms of having long-term data of the health impact specifically of nicotine pouches

But we’ve seen like irritation of the gums and sometimes like GI upset and things like that people who are not even trying to raise alarms they’re like hey don’t use this brand because it did this to my gums and they’ll show you so these nicotine pouches are made by tobacco

Companies you know and some of the context here is cigarette sales aren’t what they used to be you know more recently Vapes like Jewel exploded but Regulators briefly banned Jewel pods last year and that might end up actually being a more permanent ban and just kind

Of based on what we’ve seen from the like tobacco industry in the past like what do you think you know might be behind the hype over these pouches it’s complicated but I think like if your business is this thing that is no longer popular and has such a

Proven host of horrible health effects and you still are accountable to your shareholders you have to do something and you know it’s very interesting that they all have a very similar line like I was looking Imperial tobacco Canada talking about rolling out the pouches said it’s part of our journey to create

A better tomorrow and Philip Morris talks about delivering a smokefree future and Altria another big one talks about moving beyond smoking so it’s kind of a known thing that people should quit smoking if they can and I do think there is space for providing those people with

Some kind of offramp but if you are also creating early users of nicotine and then maybe if they end up becoming smokers later I don’t think that would really hurt their feelings as much as it would help their bottom line and you know juwel maybe flew too close to the

Sun because they marketed their product to children for a while and they had to pay you know $462 million for it cynic you can imagine that if you’re not careful about how it’s regulated and how it’s accessed as a visual Trend I’m sure it will go away but I’m not sure it will

In terms of you know usage and again when you have a highly addictive product you know that helps a lot thanks Ashwin for your Insight really appreciated this conversation likewise thanks for having me Zen isn’t legally available here in Canada but a similar product was approved for sale in July it’s called

Sonic and it’s been marketed as a nicotine replacement therapy and right now you can actually buy it at convenience stores and gas stations across the country Marina Von stackelberg is a senior reporter with cbc’s parliamentary Bureau in Ottawa and she’s here to tell us how zic is being received here in in

Canada hey Marina hey there so zic is made by Imperial tobacco Canada which also makes dorier cigarettes it’s part of the company that manufactures camel Lucky Strike and it’s really marketed as a nicotine replacement therapy so how is Sonic being regulated right now you know who can or can’t buy these nicotine

Pouches well health groups say essentially anyone can buy them and that includes children it’s basically completely legal for stores to sell them to anyone there would be no charges no fines now the label on the package says it’s for 18 and older and that’s what the company says but Health groups say

That’s basically useless because there’s no regulation that prevents it from being sold to young people right and this was actually approved by Health Canada under Natural Health product regulations right which is a be quite surprising to people you know why is that yeah so this product doesn’t have

Tobacco so it doesn’t fall under the tobacco and vaping act and it’s not considered a prescription drug because it contains 4 milligrams or less of nicotine so it falls under these Natural Health product regulations which are the same ones that apply for other products that are used to help people quit

Smoking like nicotine patches or gum um and so it falls under this category that would then be under provincial and territorial oral regulations in order to put any sort of restrictions on ages so essentially anyone can buy it because it falls under this really specific legislation right and the rule is that

If it’s 4 milligram of nicotine and below it can be regulated in this way exactly exactly so it’s it’s been about a month since zic went on sale but there’s already been you know a lot of concerns around it um can you tell me a little bit more about that that yeah so

Just this week here in Ottawa there was a press conference with six major national health organizations were talking about you know the Canadian Cancer Society heart and stroke Physicians for a smokefree Canada and they all came out and said they were extremely concerned about this it simply

Boggles the mind that Health Canada has made it legal for flavored nicotine products from Imperial tobacco to be sold to children and they really wanted Health Canada to take some immediate action because they are extremely worried that young people are going to be interested in this product right and

You know I should say that zic comes in a range of flavors what is it about this product that has uh these health organizations so worried yeah so you mentioned the flavors we have Berry Frost chill mint Tropic Breeze Tropic bre is not even a real flavor it’s a lifestyle aspiration

They’re also really concerned about the packaging um it comes in very colorful fun packaging it’s kind of a shape that looks like it could be like a candy a roll of gum they’re really concerned about the access to this because of the regulations that they fall under they’re

Not hard to find you can get them at you know gas stations convenience stores so they’re really worried about the access Canadian Cancer Society actually showed us a photo that they took here in Ottawa just recently and it had an ad for zic beside a bunch of candy bars on a

Counter of convenience store and then of course they’re really worried about the advertising the concern is is that there’s a near absence of restriction on promotion of the product and it is legal to sell nicotine poaches to Children of any age there are not the restrictions

In place that exist for the sale and marketing of tobacco products or vaping products there’s a huge regulatory Gap it should not be allowed to be on the market in the absence of proper regulations to protect youth right and and they’re making the argument that the marketing around that is very much

Targeted at youth it’s very kind of energetic and Youthful yeah the campaign show young people having fun rioting in the back of Ubers together watching movies together dancing and these Health groups are really really worried that because there’s no tobacco and it’s just nicotine it falls under the purview of

This this Natural Health product regulations um similar to like Nicorette or um you know patches gums like that but these Health groups say gum ni Nicorette gum none of that is marketed in this way uh and so that’s their real concern and I should add too they they

Point out that Nicorette when it first came on the market you needed a prescription for it not just something that you could pick up in a convenience store the health organizations that you mentioned that have these concerns you know what kinds of changes do they want

To see in how these products are sold so they they don’t want an outright ban but they do want the federal government to take immediate action to prevent this from getting in the hands of children so they’re they’re offering up two options which they say would be done could be

Done easily without any sort of big legislative changes so the first thing that could happen is a could be classified as a prescription that’s how Nicorette was first done and so that would prevent it from just being widely available or they’re saying put a temporary ban on selling this until

Regulations can come in to ensure that children are not able to get at this product and the other thing they want is for Canada to stop authorizing any other brands of nicotine pouches or any other sort of new nicotine products under these Natural Health regulations and how has Imperial tobacco

Canada responded so the tobacco industry says that Health groups always have an issue with anything they bring onto the market and they say they they want to help people quit smoking they want to provide alternatives for adults who want to quit and that this is an option that

Is safer than cigarettes we really believe that this product has the potential to helping adults quit smoking if these groups were really serious about these types of product they would raise a flag for all the cessation products that are being marketed the same way in Canada I think they’re more

Concerned that the tobacco company is trying to reinvent himself that you know we recognize the health risk associated with smoking and we believe it’s fair for us to put a less harmful alternative uh to cigarettes in the market they say this product is not intended for Youth

And that their ads Target people 25 years of age and up you know it’s worth noting here that there was a study published this week in a scientific journal called addiction that found nicotine pouches don’t do much to actually ease Smoker’s Cravings because they take longer to hit their Peak

Effectiveness yeah and the health groups say like the big point that they make in the same way they had about vaping is we just really don’t know much about these products yet Health Canada is authorizing them for use this debate around Sonic um reminds me a

Lot about vaping from a few years back you know the discussion around vaping and you know that became uh super popular uh with young people um around kind of 2018 and at this point the number of Canadian teenagers regularly using ecigarettes are actually like some of the highest in the world yeah Health

Canada’s data shows that 8% of teenagers in Canada Vape daily and as you mentioned that’s some of the highest rates reported globally and that’s what the health group said they said we need to learn from what happened with vaping and what happened was they say Ottawa

Was too slow they waited about a year until data came back showing that young people were vaping at these crazy high rates and then they reigned in advertising and the health group Say by that point you had an entire generation addicted to these products and they said

The big concern too with youth being exposed to this is that nicotine addiction is the most powerful if you become addicted when you are young when you’re a teenager and so they say health Canada needs to act quickly they can’t wait for data to come back like they did with

Vaping right right so Marina there’s clearly a lot of debate about how zonic is being marketed sold and regulated what are the questions that you have around what the government might do next the big questions that I have are what is health Canada going to do about this

And the health Minister we did get a statement saying that he is deeply concerned and they’re going to be looking to ensure that these products are being sold for what they’ve been approved for um Health Canada also told me that as part of the authorization of

This product the company does have to do mandatory annual reporting on any youth appeal or misuse but the health groups say that’s a huge issue again because it’s annual reporting so does that mean it’s going to be another year until we find out if youth are using that the

Health group say that is just too much time to take so I’ll definitely be watching to see if we have movement from Health Canada on this at all thank you so much Marina for uh joining us today absolutely that’s all for For Today front burner was produced this week by

Rafy Baker Shannon Higgins joa Shang Gupta Lauren Donnelly and Derek Vander sound design was by McKenzie Cameron and will Yar our music is by Joseph shabason our executive producer is Nick MC Loos and the show was hosted by Damon Fairless and me elae Chow thanks for listening Front Burner will be back on


Today we’re looking at the hype around nicotine pouches, their Canadian launch and what ‘Big Tobacco’ has to do with it.

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