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Have you heard of nicotine pouches and are they the latest teen craze? By Alicia Drummond, Therapist and Founder of The Wellbeing Hub

Being in contact with so many schools we are kept abreast of emerging trends (thank you), and it seems that nicotine pouches are the new thing on the block.  They are the fastest growing nicotine delivery product in the US and are becoming increasingly popular in the UK.

Derived from traditional Swedish Snus, nicotine pouches provide a tobacco-free, smoking experience.  They are manufactured using a form of dehydrated nicotine with added flavours (think cherry, strawberry, mint), and they usually contain plant fibres and sweeteners.  They generally contain 8mg of nicotine per pouch but nicotine levels maybe higher or lower (0 to 20mg).  They are sold in supermarkets and online and cost approximately £5 for twenty – brands you might come across include Velo and Nordic Spirit.  Unlike smoking or vaping nicotine pouches can be used anywhere, at any time, because they are tucked neatly between the lip and gum, and produce no vapour, smoke, or smell.

They are usually kept in the mouth for up to an hour and must not be swallowed (seek medical advice if swallowed).  Whilst the absence of tobacco is a good thing, nicotine is highly addictive, and being able to access it in such a discreet way means young people are using it to get a nicotine hit in lessons.

Nicotine pouches are not considered to be medicinal products and whilst they might resemble other nicotine replacement products like gum and lozenges, there is no body of evidence showing that they are effective in helping people quit smoking.

The pouches are not technically classed as tobacco products under UK law, and so can be legally sold to under-18s and advertised and sold on social media, unlike vapes, and you only have to look at the packaging to know that the manufacturers have children in their sights.

Whilst nicotine pouches are undoubtedly less harmful than smoking, they are not harm free. For all of us nicotine increases our heart rate and causes a surge of dopamine which creates feelings of pleasure and reward, but the feeling of reward is short lived meaning people must do more to get more, and so the cycle of use/addiction is established.

Nicotine is a psychoactive substance which is particularly harmful to the developing teenage brain.  It can negatively impact the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control, but there are many other side effects associated with nicotine use, including:

  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Changes in blood flow
  • Headaches
  • Increased risk of blood clotting
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Diarrhoea
  • Joint pain
Nicotine pouches can have additional side effects, including:
  • Discolouration of the teeth
  • Gum disease and dentists have raised concerns about oral cancer.

It is important that we talk to young people about the risks associated with nicotine pouches so that they can make informed choices.  You might find the story of David James, the former England Football goalkeeper who talks about his experience of using snus and The Professional Footballers’ Association who are carrying out research in the use of snus, useful starting points for conversations.

What are the current Regulations of Nicotine Pouches?

  • Europe – UK: Since Nicotine pouches are tobacco-free products and they do not have medicinal claims, they are not regulated either by Tobacco and Related Products Regulations (TRPR) or by the MHRA . The most applicable regulation is the General Product Safety Regulations (GPSR). Recently the COT Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment has published a preliminary paper to discuss the bioavailability of nicotine and other ingredients from the use of oral nicotine pouches and assessment of risk to users.

Source/References:

The Wellbeing Hub from Teen Tips is created by experts and updated with new content weekly, responding to the latest mental health and wellbeing issues affecting young people and their families today. Come on board today and enjoy one week’s free trial then £7.99 per month. SIGN UP HERE.

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