Joanna: Hello and welcome. I'm Joanna Junak and this is GFN News on GFN TV. In today's program, I'm Mark Oates, founder of the Snus and Nicotine Pouch Users Association and director of We Vape will tell us more about the latest paper on nicotine pouches issued by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment. Thank you, Mark, for joining us today. First, can you tell us what the key points of this report are and why is it significant?
Mark: Well, so the German public body have looked into nicotine pouches and I think firstly, it's really important to point out that it's great that we're seeing more independent groups looking at nicotine pouches because we need to be able to arm consumers and policy makers and politicians with clear science, clear independent science. That's important because there's always a risk with nicotine in the subject that there's going to be scare stories and we need that science first before the scare stories, so we can probably make good decisions about what's right to do. The big headline thing that this report shows is that it looks at harm reduction, it takes into account harm reduction and it suggests that switching from cigarette to nicotine pouches could represent a reduction in health risk for a person who smokes. And I think that's the most important thing. If you are a smoker, you have anywhere from 50 to two third chance that you will die, have your life shortened by smoking, and nicotine pouches offers a way out of that to massively reduce the harm. Beyond that, the study looks into lots of areas which frankly are not the harmful areas. So it looks at nicotine in the bloodstream. How that goes into the body, I think it's very important to look at that. What it shows there is that nicotine pouches have a similar nicotine absorption into the body of cigarettes. Not the same, but similar. Nicotine pouches take a little longer, but they get there after a period of time. And that's important because when we're trying to help people quit smoking, something that provides a similar level of satisfaction is useful. It looks into PSNA, which is tobacco specific nitrosamines, this is what can cause cancer, and cigarettes on the particle that causes cancer in cigarettes. It notes that nicotine pouches do contain them, but on average that there's anywhere between ten and 30 times less nitrosamines in nicotine pouches when compared to Swedish Snus. And we know that Swedish Snus doesn't cause an issue with the level of nitrosamines in them. So it's fantastic that it's even less. And it points out that there are some nicotine pouches that don't have any nitrosamines in and it suggests that that would be a good place to be if all nicotine pouches didn't contain nitrosamines. I don't think it's something that's overly concerning that it contains nitrosamines, because even nicotine pouches, pharmaceutical nicotine pouches, also can contain nitrosamines. And what we know is that what matters is the dose so with all products, you can have a lot of things that are low dose and it's absolutely fine. You increase the dose to a high level and then that's where it causes health problems.
Joanna: So what are nicotine pouches?
Mark: So, a nicotine pouch, and I'll show one, they come in a tub like this, and effectively what you've got is either synthetic nicotine or nicotine derived from a tobacco pan, which is extracted and it's placed in with various sort of food fillers into a pouch which looks like a tiny teabag. And that is an example of one. And it just goes up in your top lip is the traditional way of place of putting it, and that then leads to the nicotine being absorbed by your mucus membrane in your mouth and then going into your bloodstream. So, unlike cigarettes or e-cigarettes, whereby the nicotine is mostly absorbed in the lungs, this is absorbed in the mouth orally. It comes effectively from a product called Swedish Snus, which is very similar, but different in that it again is a tobacco product which is pasteurized. And the good thing about that is pasteurization kills off mitosmine levels, which massively reduces the chances of carcinogens and carcinogen risk. And that tobacco is then put into, again a bag, like with a nicotine pouch, and again it goes into your top lid and again the nicotine is absorbed. Swedish Snus was banned across the European Union apart from Sweden. When Sweden joined the EU, they asked for an opt out on that, which I think shows the EU is willing to give you opt outs if when you're joining, not when you're leaving there. Anyhow, so the result is that Swedish men have the lowest smoke related illnesses in Europe and they have sweden as a whole has the second lowest all cancers in Europe. Swedish men use Snus at a higher rate than Swedish women. So we have a real in person, in country study on Swedish Snus and how it's had a dramatically positive effect on reducing smoking deaths. Sweden doesn't have a higher consumption nicotine. It doesn't have a lower consumption nicotine, it's largely consumed nicotine is similar level to the rest of Europe or at least Britain, but the fact is they've switched from a dangerous way of consuming nicotine, which is smoking due to combustion, to a vastly safer way. And this has led to much more positive health outcomes. Now, nicotine pouches offer a new opportunity for the rest of Europe because, sadly, politicians across Europe, both in Britain and the EU, are unwilling to change the massive mistake they made in the 1990s. That's probably led to hundreds of thousands of people having punctual death because they've continued to smoke. So legally, because nicotine pouches do not contain tobacco, they are not banned in the same way that tobacco Snus is. So, yeah, they're relatively new product, I think, on the market in the UK for the last three years, a steady but strong growth in the product. We're looking at maybe 400,000 users in the UK. There's lots of users in America, and it offers a new opportunity. E-cigarettes have done a fantastic job in helping switch from smoking. They provide a cessation both in nicotine, but also in the fact that you've got the hand to mouth movement, you're inhaling something, so it really mimics a cigarette. Well, nicotine powders don't do the hand to mouth, they don't mimic cigarettes in quite the same way. But they do provide cessation in the fact that it provides and delivers what the consumer wants, which is nicotine. And it offers an alternative for those that perhaps e-cigarettes haven't worked for to make the switch. The other advantage to nicotine pouches is you can use them anywhere and you're not really imposing yourself on anyone when you do use them, because there's no exhalation of anything. And they're useful on, say, planes, whereby you can't vape or smoke. So they're a great opportunity to help reduce the 8 million people a year that die from smoking.
Joanna: What does it mean for consumers?
Mark: I think it should give confidence to consumers in that everything that's under this study looks at kind of confirms what I think we all effectively knew. But it's good to have it from a good independent body. As I said before, you're much better off using nicotine pouches than smoking. It looks at nicotine absorption, and I think that's important. There is a difference between, say, Swedish Snus absorption and nicotine pouches. For me, that's an argument why we should legalize Swedish Snus. I myself have noticed when using Swedish Snus that I find that the peak is not as early with Swedish news and it's more nice, smoother line. I personally find that it lasts a bit longer. Mixing powders tend to have a high spike and then it comes down it's deeper. That leads me to somewhat prefer Swedish Snus, although I enjoy using both. But the good thing for an income pouches is because it has a good spike to it. That leads to a better slogan, cessation, in some ways because it means that it's more similar to cigarettes, because cigarettes have a good, strong spike to them and it's valuable evidence that can be used to inform policymakers. So pointing out that it's quite clear that it can reduce your health harms by using nicotine pouches rather than smoking. So it's a piece of defense we can give to politicians if they were to start deciding that they want to limit or restrict nicotine pouches.
Joanna: Do you think authorities, after reading this paper, should take any steps towards giving people another alternative to quit smoking?
Mark: Well, I'll hope they will maintain or keep or consider a mature approach to nicotine pouches and recognize ultimately they are far safer because there are already fears around nicotine pouches that exist, same as we have with vaping. And the Netherlands has banned nicotine pouches below, above, something like 0.6 milligrams, which is such a small nicotine level that it's not going to have any effect on someone that's a smoker to help them quit. So that is a terrible mistake and I think that we need to stop the same tragic mistake that was made in the 1990s, which was the ban of Snus. This could cut the number of smokers in Europe by 30% if given the opportunity and there's been effort, a good survey on Snus and asked people in Europe if Snus was legal, would you like to try it? And 30% of smokes said they would. And I think in place of the fact that the politicians are sitting on their hands and unwilling to change their minds, right, Snus, nicotine pouches could take up that position. I still think Snus should be legalized, but in replacement of that, then this is the best we can hope for. And to take the UK as an example, 30% of smokers would mean around one and a half, 2 million people quitting. It's going to be a slower process than vaping, I think, because Vaping, it almost advertises itself. When it came on seeing ten years ago in the UK, or twelve years ago, you could see people doing it and it was interesting. Nixon pounds was much more private. I've got one in right now and you wouldn't know, but steadily I know my friends have gone from asking me weird questions about why I've brought my hair gel tub to the pub, to understanding what it is to some of them using themselves. Lots of friends have started making pouches as a way to quit smoking and I'm seeing more and more people around on the street just pop one in or thump in their pocket. So that's great. Joanna: Thank you, Mark. That's all for today. Tune in next time here on Gfntv or on our new podcast for more tobacco harm reduction updates. And on Tuesday, we will ask Harry Shapiro, the author and executive editor of the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction reports about a new paper which will be published soon. Thanks for watching. I'll listening. See you next time.