Sen. Chuck Schumer asks feds to crack down on teen use of Zyn nicotine pouches

Schumer has asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission to take action on Zyn’s marketing practices and health effects, saying the product is ‘quiet and dangerous.’

Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer has called on federal agencies to crack down on Zyn nicotine pouches, saying the product will be the next “trend in addiction for teens.”

Schumer has asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission to take action on Zyn’s marketing practices and health effects, the New York Democrat said in a news release on Sunday.

“Amid federal action against e-cigs and their grip on young people, a quiet and dangerous alternative has emerged and it is called Zyn,” Schumer said in a statement. “I am delivering a new warning to parents because these nicotine pouches seem to lock their sights on teens and use social media to hook them.”

He continued to say that “the amount of nicotine is highly addictive and much more needs to be done to understand and communicate the health risks for young people.”

In response, the parent company of Zyn said it meets and exceeds the industry regulations.

What are Zyn nicotine pouches?

According to its website, Zyn is a nicotine pouch placed between the upper lip and gum for up to one hour. Users, required to be 21 years or older, get the effects of nicotine without spitting or smoking.

Nicotine pouches have only just hit the market in the past decade, meaning there is still a lot to learn about long-term health effects, according to the University Health Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

While they are similar to chewing tobacco without the tobacco part, the pouches contain nicotine, which is addictive. Other side effects can include gum irritation, sore mouth, and nausea, according to the health center.

Whether or not the pouches can help smokers quit has not yet been determined.

Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany all have banned nicotine pouches, according to Politico. Belgian Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke spoke out about the product last year, saying that they can be a springboard to smoking for young people, according to French news agency Agence France-Presse.

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“If you are fully committed to a smoke-free generation, you must ensure that young people come into less contact with smoking or anything related to it,” Vandenbroucke said, according to AFP.

In a statement sent to USA TODAY, Zyn’s manufacturer said the company exceeds U.S. regulations governing the industry.

“Our marketing practices – which prohibit the use of social media influencers – are focused on preventing underage access and set the benchmark for the industry,” said Swedish Match, the Stockholm-based company that manufactures Zyn.

What do the feds say?

An FDA spokeswoman said the agency doesn’t comment about specific companies or products but sent USA TODAY a statement from Brian King, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.

“The FDA remains concerned about any tobacco product that may appeal to youth,” he said in the statement. “The FDA uses a variety of surveillance tools to monitor the evolving tobacco product landscape and to identify emerging threats to public health.”

He continued to say that the agency closely monitors “those in the supply chain for compliance with federal law.”

“As always, we are committed to holding those accountable who sell unauthorized tobacco products, including those labeled, advertised, and/or designed to encourage youth use,” he said.

The FTC declined to comment, saying it does not publicly speculate on external requests for investigations or comment on letters from members of Congress.

Nicotine pouch use among youth

Zyn pointed to recent data from the FDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying that nicotine pouch use among youth is “exceptionally low.”

Ten percent of students in the 2023 Annual National Youth Tobacco Survey reported using any type of tobacco product. Here were the most common product types:

  • E-cigarettes – 7.7%
  • Cigars – 1.6%
  • Cigarettes – 1.6%
  • Nicotine Pouches – 1.5%
  • Smokeless (chewing tobacco, snuff, dip, or snus) – 1.2%
  • Other oral nicotine products (lozenges, discs, tablets, gums, dissolvable tobacco products, and other products) – 1.2%
  • Hookahs – 1.1%  
  • Heated Tobacco Products – 1.0%
  • Pipe Tobacco – 0.5%

However, Schumer says the pouches are growing in popularity. He said “Zynfluencers” make content about the pouches on TikTok, some of which is seen by minors.

GOP lawmakers criticize Schumer, MTG calls for “Zynsurrection”

Several Republican lawmakers from the House and the Senate criticized Schumer in response to his warnings about Zyn.

“I’m not a user myself, but it’s hard to believe that’s one of the most pressing problems for the country right now,” Republican Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio told Politico.

Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green called for a “Zynsurrection,” in a post on X, and called Democrats idiots.

“I know for a fact our service members and emergency responders use Zyn as an alternative to tobacco to help stay alert,” Republican Rep. Mike Waltz of Florida posted on X.

Other Republican politicians were curious to learn more about the product, Politico reported.

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