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Nicotine Pouches: What to Know

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on March 31, 2021

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. People who use nicotine pouches take them by mouth. They put one between their gum and lip for up to an hour. They don’t smoke it or swallow 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.

What’s in a Nicotine Pouch?

The main ingredients are nicotine, water, flavorings, sweeteners, and plant-based-based fibers. Product makers sell nicotine pouches 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.

Nicotine Pouches and Your Health

More research needs to be done to find out how safe and effective nicotine pouches are in general. 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:

What to Do if You Want to Quit Tobacco

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 irritable, 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.
WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Toxicology Reports: “A screening approach for the evaluation of tobacco-free ‘modern oral’ nicotine products using Real Time Cell Analysis.”

BMJ: “Tobacco companies introduce ‘tobacco-free’ nicotine pouches.”

American Cancer Society: “Nicotine Replacement Therapy to Help You Quit Tobacco.”

Mayo Clinic: “Smokeless tobacco products.”

FDA: “Dip, Chew, Snuff, Snus: ‘Smokeless’ Doesn’t Mean ‘Safe.’”

National Health Service: “Nicotine Pouch User Guide.”

SmokeFree.gov: “Speak to an Expert,” “Understanding Withdrawal.”

CDC: “Using Nicotine Replacement Therapy.”

American Lung Association: “Top Tips for Quitting Smoking.”

Up to Date: “Patient education: Quitting smoking (Beyond the Basics).”

Zyn.com: “Still Have Questions?”

Onnicotine.com: “Support & FAQ.”

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