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Nicotine pouches such as Zonnic and Zyn have taken many countries by storm, but in Australia heavy handed restrictions on nicotine have limited legal access to pouches. In today's episode, Colin Mendelsohn updates us on the rise of nicotine pouches in Australia, and the science supporting the claim that they are safer than smoking.


0:00 - Coming up on today's programme
0:51 - Joining us today: Colin Mendelsohn
1:18 - Australia's relationship with nicotine pouches
1:56 - Is there any significant youth use of pouches?
2:40 - Are nicotine pouches safer than smoking?
3:10 - No ban on the horizon
3:45 - Nicotine pouch popularity slowly rises
4:13 - Does the evidence support nicotine pouches?
4:46 - Restrictions take their toll in Australia
5:39 - Closing remarks


00:00:04 --> 00:01:17

Joanna Junak: Hello and welcome! I'm Joanna Junak and this is GFN News on GFN.TV. Nicotine pouches have gained popularity in several countries around the world, especially in regions where smoking regulations are stringent or where there is a growing interest in alternative nicotine products. Australia's Health Minister recently expressed deep concern about the increasing visibility of nicotine pouches being advertised and supplied within the country. Joining us today is Dr Colin Mendelsohn, an academic and researcher in tobacco treatment who will provide insights on the visibility and regulation of nicotine pouches in Australia. Hello Colin, it's good to see you again on the program. Could you please tell us how nicotine pouches are regulated in Australia and whether you need a prescription in order to buy them?

00:01:19 --> 00:01:54

Colin Mendelsohn: Hi Joanna. Well, in Australia, nicotine pouches are a prescription-only medicine, like vapes. However, only a handful of GPs actually prescribe them. There are two legal ways to purchase them. Firstly, from a pharmacy with a prescription, although I'm not aware of any pharmacies that actually sell them. Or they can be imported from overseas, again with a prescription. Most regular adult users import them from overseas websites. Some have prescriptions and some don't, and some orders do get intercepted at the border.

00:01:56 --> 00:02:06

Joanna Junak: So nicotine pouches can only legally be purchased on prescription in Australia. Are there any other ways people are accessing nicotine pouches in the country?

00:02:07 --> 00:02:38

Colin Mendelsohn: Pouches can be purchased illegally from local retailers, tobacconists, Australian websites and on social media. And there are reports of influencers promoting them online. There has been a media frenzy recently, mainly about potential uptake of pouches by young people, and fears that young people will become attracted to the flavors and become dependent on the nicotine. However, there's no evidence that I'm aware of so far of youth uptake.

00:02:41 --> 00:02:49

Joanna Junak: Nicotine pouches are marketed as tobacco free and do not contain tobacco. So what are the health risks?

00:02:51 --> 00:03:08

Colin Mendelsohn: Well, pouches are very low-risk products. They contain nicotine, plant fibre, sweeteners and flavourings. There's no tobacco, there's no combustion. There hasn't been a lot of safety research, but we know that the risks from snus are very small and pouches are rated as even safer.

00:03:10 --> 00:03:19

Joanna Junak: And given the government's hostility towards safer products, does the Australian government also want to ban nicotine pouches?

00:03:20 --> 00:03:44

Colin Mendelsohn: There are no plans to ban nicotine pouches at the moment, but their use is discouraged and access is very difficult, as I mentioned earlier. Australia's policy on pouches reflects the abstinence-only ideology for nicotine in Australia. And we're particularly concerned, or the authorities are particularly concerned about youth access.

00:03:46 --> 00:03:52

Joanna Junak: So do we see any evidence that the use of nicotine pouches is on the rise in Australia?

00:03:52 --> 00:04:11

Colin Mendelsohn: Well, there is a small group of regular adult uses in Australia, which is increasing. Almost all use, in fact, is by adult smokers or former smokers as a quitting aid. They're also used by vapers as an alternative when vaping's inconvenient or as a way to cut down vaping.

00:04:13 --> 00:04:18

Joanna Junak: And is there any research exploring the relative risks of nicotine pouches in the country?

00:04:20 --> 00:04:44

Colin Mendelsohn: Well, there's no Australian research and there's very little from overseas. However, experts have ranked pouches as substantially safer than smoking and even safer than vaping. Pouches would be even less harmful than snus as they don't contain tobacco. And with modern snus, we know there's no significant increase in cancers, cardiovascular or respiratory disease.

00:04:46 --> 00:04:57

Joanna Junak: Do you think that nicotine pouches are going to become more and more popular across Australia? And are fears around their popularity with young people justified?

00:04:59 --> 00:05:37

Colin Mendelsohn: Look, there'll always be a market for pouches and the number of users in Australia is slowly increasing. Look, we know snus is effective and there's every reason to believe that pouches will also be effective as they give good nicotine delivery. Pouches are more popular in Australia than snus and that's partly because the tax on tobacco in Australia for snus is about $2,000 a kilogram including GST which is prohibitive. But there's no evidence of youth use so far, and I think the risk of any significant youth uptake is very unlikely, especially among non-smokers.

00:05:40 --> 00:05:54

Joanna Junak: Thank you, Colin. That's all for today. Tune in next time here on GFN TV or on our podcast. You can also find transcriptions of each episode on the GFN TV website. Thanks for watching or listening. See you next time.