Nicotine Pouches: What to Know

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on May 02, 2024
5 min read

A nicotine pouch is a small bag that contains the addictive chemical nicotine and some other ingredients. It doesn’t have tobacco leaf in it. Some companies that make nicotine pouches market them as a safer alternative to smoking and dipping. But talk to your doctor before you use them to try to kick the habit. They’re not an FDA-approved type of nicotine replacement therapy, like nicotine gum or lozenges.

The main ingredients are nicotine, water, flavorings, sweeteners, and plant-based-based fibers. Product makers sell nicotine pouches under brands like On!, Zyn, and Velo. They come in different strengths, so some have more nicotine than others.

The lack of tobacco leaf in them makes them different from other “smokeless” products with nicotine, like chewing tobacco, snuff, and snus. Even though snus can also come in a small pouch that goes in your mouth, it’s filled with moist, finely ground tobacco.

How to use nicotine pouches

To use a nicotine pouch, you place it in your mouth between your gum and lip for up to an hour. You don’t smoke it or swallow it. Instead, your body absorbs the nicotine into your bloodstream through mucous membranes in your mouth.

Scientists need to do more studies to find out how safe nicotine pouches are and how well they work. But they can bring on side effects, like:

Never share a nicotine pouch with someone else, and call your doctor right away if you swallow one.

Because nicotine pouches don’t have tobacco, they may be safer than snus and other smokeless tobacco products, which can cause:

Does Zyn cause gum diseases?

It's unclear whether nicotine pouches like Zyn cause gum disease. But, one side effect of a similar product, snus, is a type of gum disease called gum recession. This is when your gum tissue pulls away from your teeth, revealing the roots and raising your chances of cavities.

Nicotine is harmful to your health and extremely addictive. It can cause heart, lung, stomach, and fertility problems, raise your blood pressure, and weaken your immune system. It could also play a role in hardening your artery walls, which may lead to a heart attack. And since nicotine is addictive, you may have side effects if you decide to stop.

Do nicotine pouches cause cancer?

Nicotine doesn't directly cause cancer. People have safely used nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) for years to help quit smoking. But research shows nicotine is a tumor promoter, making cancer more aggressive.

Are nicotine pouches safer than regular smoking or vaping?

Experts don't know for sure how nicotine pouches might affect your health in the long run. They're not officially considered smokeless tobacco, so the FDA doesn't regulate them as closely as cigarettes or other tobacco products you light up. Since there's not enough data over a long period, you can't be sure if using these pouches, even if they expose you to less nicotine, is safer.

Why are nicotine pouches so popular, and why is that a problem?

Tobacco companies sell nicotine pouches in attractive packaging and a range of flavors, including citrus, peppermint, and coffee. Researchers are concerned that this marketing tactic is likely to appeal to young people and nonsmokers who may not be aware of nicotine's harmful effects. Some social media influencers are also promoting the use of nicotine pouches by showing how they use them in their daily lives, discreetly placing them in their mouths at school and work, and doing taste tests.

Don’t use a nicotine pouch without talking to your doctor first. If you’re a heavy smoker who lights up 10 or more times a day, they may recommend you try a type of nicotine replacement therapy that the FDA has already approved.

Nicotine replacement therapy comes in different forms, like:

  • Nicotine patches
  • Gum
  • Lozenges
  • Nasal sprays
  • Inhalers

Once you stop smoking, these can ease your cravings for cigarettes. They can also help you manage nicotine withdrawal, which can make you feel sad or cranky, have trouble sleeping, or feel mild flu-like symptoms.

In general, nicotine replacement therapy is a safe quit-smoking treatment if you’re a healthy adult and you’re not pregnant. But you still need to learn about the side effects and get your doctor’s OK before you start using it. It probably isn’t right for you if you’re still using tobacco or if you were a light smoker before you decided to quit.

Some other ways to give up tobacco are:

  • Work with your doctor on a plan to quit.
  • Call a quit line, like 800-QUIT-NOW or 877-44U-QUIT.
  • Use a program like SmokefreeTXT. (Text QUIT to 47848.)
  • Get tips from an app, like the free QuitGuide.
  • Avoid people, places, and situations that seem to make you crave tobacco.
  • Take charge of stress with healthy habits like exercise and meditation.
  • Join a quit-smoking support group.
  • Ask family and friends to keep you accountable as you try to kick the habit.

Nicotine pouches are small bags containing nicotine, water, flavorings, sweeteners, and plant-based fibers, but no tobacco leaf. Marketed by brands like On!, Zyn, and Velo, they're placed between the gum and lip to absorb nicotine without smoking or swallowing. While they're not FDA-approved, like nicotine gum or patches, some consider them a safer alternative to smoking. But they can cause side effects like gum irritation and addiction. The appealing packaging and flavors of nicotine pouches are concerning to researchers, who fear they may attract young people and nonsmokers unaware of nicotine's dangers. Talk to your doctor before using nicotine pouches and explore FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapies or other quitting methods.