Nicotine pouches: Are they safer than chewing, smoking or vaping?

A new flavored nicotine product is increasing in popularity – oral nicotine pouches and lozenges.   

This product is placed between the cheek and gum. They do not contain tobacco, but they do contain nicotine, flavorings, sweeteners and plant-based fibers. Some popular brand names include ZynOnand Velo, and they come in colorful packaging that looks like mint containers.  

Although advertising may make it look convenient and appealing, it’s important to know that these products deliver varying amounts of the addictive chemical nicotine, which can negatively impact your learning, attention span and proneness to addiction.  

Are nicotine pouches safer than chewing, smoking or vaping?  

The long-term health impact of nicotine pouches is still unknown. They are not technically categorized as smokeless tobacco, so the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate them as strictly as smoked tobacco products or combustible tobacco. Without long-term data, we cannot be certain if or how reduced exposure will prevent harm to one’s health.  

Side effects of use can include 

  • Irritation of the gums 

  • Sore mouth 

  • Hiccups 

  • Nausea  

  • Nicotine addiction (which increases relapse risk with other tobacco products) 

Are nicotine pouches a safe approach to quitting nicotine dependence? 

There is no data to show nicotine pouches as a safe or effective way to quit. University Health Center medical experts and Nebraska Medicine certified tobacco treatment specialist Jill Selzle, PA, do not recommend these products.  

If someone is already using nicotine pouches and has been able to quit tobacco, we suggest weaning off them for full nicotine freedom. Approved short-term nicotine replacement therapies include 

  • Nicotine patches 

  • Gum 

  • Lozenges 

  • Nasal spray 

  • Nicotine inhaler 

All medications have side effects and indications for use, so it’s important to discuss this information with a health care provider before use.  

Living nicotine-free is possible  

Here are a few expert tips to help you quit for good: 

  • Understand nicotine withdrawal – what it looks and feels like for you 

  • Find ways to physically and mentally deal with urges in a healthy way 

  • Delay or distract to avoid tobacco use 

  • Practice mindfulnessDon't be on autopilot, but be aware of every time you choose to use  

  • Use visualization, deep breathing or meditation to focus your energy  

  • Try a new hobby or activity to keep yourself busy 

  • Change routines 

  • Avoid access to tobacco: don't have it around, pay at the pump, avoid high-risk social situations, etc.  

  • Exercise – it increases endorphins and helps you to stay busy in a healthy way 

  • Drink plenty of water 

  • Choose healthy foods 

Selzle also recommends the power of positive thinking. People believe what they tell themselves, so make sure you remind yourself you can do it, and you will do it.  

Are you struggling with nicotine or tobacco dependence? We're here to help. To get started, call 402.472.5000 to schedule a University Health Center medical clinic appointment to talk about your options. You can also call 800.922.0000 and ask for a Nebraska Medicine Tobacco Dependence Clinic appointment.