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The rising popularity of nicotine pouches in the United States, in particular Zyn, has been met with backlash and misinformation, despite the proven efficacy of safer nicotine products in helping smokers quit. In today's episode we're joined by Martin Cullip of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, who takes a closer look at the motivations behind this backlash and the actual evidence at stake.


0:00 - Coming up on today's programme
0:51 - Why are nicotine pouches rising in popularity?
4:38 - Who's using nicotine pouches?
6:10 - The rise and rise of nicotine misinformation
8:04 - Anti-tobacco campaigners target safer products
9:39 - Why aren't more countries copying Sweden's smokefree success?
12:06 - Closing remarks


00:00:04 --> 00:01:19

Joanna Junak: Hello and welcome! I'm Joanna Junak and this is GFN News on GFN.TV Nicotine pouches such as Zyn have gained popularity in recent years, especially among people looking for alternatives to traditional cigarettes or other tobacco products. In January, United States Senator Chuck Schumer urged the Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission to investigate Zyn for concerns relating to marketing and health effects. Recently, we spoke with John Oyston about nicotine pouches called Zonic, which gained popularity in Canada. In today's program, Martin Cullip, International Fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance Consumer Center, will tell us more about Zyn and its popularity in America. Hello Martin, thank you for joining us today. First, please explain to us what Zyn is and where its popularity comes from.

00:01:21 --> 00:02:21

Martin Cullip: Zyn is a type of nicotine pouch, which I think is marketed by a Swedish Match. And it's attracted attention in America because sales have gone very well there. I think it was introduced to the market in 2014. But it's achieved almost a cult-like following. You can look on websites and find all sorts of merchandise with Zyn. And people call themselves Zynfluencers. And it's something that... Americans have started to call an anapodecky because you put it in the top of your mouth. And it's going great guns. But of course, as always with these products, the moment they gain popularity, anti-smoking organizations try to stop them, which I always think is quite ironic. And Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat in New York, came out a few weeks ago and called Zyn a pouch packed with problems, which is quite alliterative really,

00:02:25 --> 00:04:37

Martin Cullip: Well, of course, the FDA, Food and Drug Administration in America, that's what his job is, to investigate these things. And they have an application from the company to be able to market them. I think even a reduced risk product. But they've said, well, we're not going to investigate them. But it's caused a big debate in America and it's almost gone along political lines because it's Democrats who are saying these things are dangerous. Kids could use them. And it's Republicans who say, leave us alone. This is a freedom of choice issue. And so and led by Tucker Carlson, who's quite a well-known celebrity over there. So it's become almost like a culture war based around this product Zyn, which is quite amusing. But what I find astonishing about all these things, and we've seen it throughout history, the way snus was attacked by anti-smoking organisations, and now it's banned across the whole of the EU and still in the UK. Whereas in America, one brand of snus has an MRTP, Reduced Risk Authorization, saying that it's less harmful than cigarettes and it can be sold with health claims. So, of course, we can't have that in the UK apart from in the EU, apart from in Sweden, who negotiated a carve out when they joined the European Union in 1995. So that set up a real life experiment with snus and and their smoking rates have gone down by two-thirds since 2005, and they're close to becoming the only country in Europe that's achieved the smoke-free 2040 aspiration. And they're going to be doing it probably about 16, 17 years early. So it's strange that you have this product, Zyn, which is going well in America. You would think... the anti-smoking organizations would celebrate this because it can switch people to a far less harmful product, but instead they're trying to close it down and get it banned. And that happens all over the world. And it's very sad. You almost have to pinch yourself to not believe that these people are actually trying to protect cigarette sales and perpetuate smoking rather than embrace things that could help people quit.

00:04:39 --> 00:04:42

Joanna Junak: So among which groups is Zyn most popular?

00:04:44 --> 00:06:08

Martin Cullip: It's young adults, I think. I mean, the Centers for Disease Control has investigated and found out that there's a low take-up, very low take-up by kids. So there isn't really a threat there. I sometimes wonder if all this publicity that these people put on there is designed to try and make it attractive to kids because they make a big song and dance about it. And then kids are thinking, well, I've never heard of these things. I wonder what they are. Might start investigating them. So... Yeah, it's very low. But of course, every time something comes out, they always say, oh, well, that could be attractive to kids. Well, so can everything. You know, alcohol is attractive to kids. You know, lots of age gated products are attractive to kids and they use them in much bigger numbers than they do things with nicotine. But there's this massive stigma around nicotine. In Canada, as maybe John Oyston picked up on this when you spoke to him, Mark Holland (Canada's Minister of Health) is calling nicotine pouches lethal and talked about deaths from nicotine pouches, which is quite astonishing. That's the first I've heard. But there is this panic about nicotine and people don't seem to understand that nicotine isn't the problem in cigarettes. Over the years they've sort of conflated the two and then we get to the situation where there's a moral panic about nicotine, when it's not the harmful substance in cigarettes and it's probably on a par with caffeine.

00:06:10 --> 00:06:24

Joanna Junak: Nicotine pouches contain nicotine and other ingredients but are smoke-less tobacco products. So why are they compared to tobacco products and why are they mistakenly viewed as similarly harmful?

00:06:26 --> 00:08:03

Martin Cullip: Well, they'll talk about nicotine can increase your heart rate or it can, you know, and they'll say this could lead to cardiovascular disease. Could, it may, it could, may lead to, but then the same, you know, drinking coffee has the same effect. Watching football on the TV has the same effect. You know, walking briskly will have the same effect. but they don't panic about that. It's always innuendo and scaremongering to try and put people off these products simply because they have nicotine. Whereas there isn't any, I mean, if you think about it, you've got the continuum of risk, which even the American authorities admit exists, the Food and Drug Administration have mentioned it a few times, vaping products are massively less harmful than smoking. And snus and nicotine pouches are probably less harmful than the very small harm that vapour presents. And yet they're infinitesimally going for tiny, tiny risks and trying to eradicate them while not really saying much about smoking. They seem to just accept the risks of smoking. We should be advancing towards a society where people use nicotine, start using nicotine and use nicotine in the safest form possible. But you have these anti-smoking organisations trying desperately to ban the very safe products and just not saying much about the very harmful ones. In fact, they're protecting the trade of the very harmful product by trying to ban the less harmful product.

00:08:05 --> 00:08:17

Joanna Junak: In your recent article, you mentioned that the FDA authorized many applications regarding combustible tobacco products, but only a few regarding vaping products. Why is this the case?

00:08:18 --> 00:09:37

Martin Cullip: Since the premarket tobacco authorization process (PMTA) started on e-cigarettes, back in, I think, 2020, I think there's only 23 vaping products have been authorized for PMTAs. But in the same timeframe, 212 combustible tobacco products have been authorized. And yet no one seems to mention the 212 products that have been authorized, which are combustible. Anti-smoking organizations don't mention them at all, but instead they're completely incensed and furious that the FDA has authorized 23 vaping products, which are far less harmful. Why? Why are they doing this? Again, it seems to be if you were if you were somewhat an outsider who was new to this debate, you would be convinced that anti-smoking organizations want to prolong people smoking. Why would they do that? Well, only they will know. And yet there isn't the fuss about 212 combustible products authorized. Instead, they're just talking about the ones authorized, that are low risk and they're opening up a new front of the moral panic on Zyn and nicotine pouches in the US and in Canada.

00:09:39 --> 00:10:07

Joanna Junak: During our conversation, you mentioned many times about people's fears of safer alternatives due to misinformation. You also said that snus has been attacked by anti-smoking organizations in a similar situation we have seen with nicotine pouches. But when we look at Sweden, the situation is different. So why can't other countries see these opportunities to achieve Sweden's smoke-free success?

00:10:08 --> 00:12:04

Martin Cullip: It's just the suspicion of lower risk nicotine products. I think the outburst that Mark Holland in Canada came out with the other day was he was saying, we authorise these products from Zonnic, from Imperial Tobacco Canada. We authorise it as a smoking cessation device. And he's furious because they're selling it as a consumer product. Well, that's how it works. It still helps smoking cessation, but it's not like a nicotine patch or gum, which is a medically licensed thing, this works because it's freely chosen by consumers and they use it to continue using nicotine in a far safer form, which again is comparable really to the psychoactive effects of caffeine. We seem very willing to accept caffeine in society, but yet... Nicotine, for some reason, there's this stigma around it. And that's where the whole thing seems to fall apart. If they could realise there are different ways of just prescription products from helping you to quit smoking and that if you continue to use nicotine, it's not really that much of a big thing. If they could get that into their heads, it should be a simple enough concept, but it seems that politicians don't understand it. But if they could just get that concept into their heads, then perhaps we could have... Many more countries that embrace reducerous products. I mean, we're seeing in the EU that the Netherlands and Belgium, I think, are planning to ban nicotine pouches. And yet they're foregoing a very good opportunity to help more smokers quit. Sweden recognizes that and it did very well in 1995 to make sure that it didn't have to fall into EU prohibitions on those products because it's a natural experiment across Europe and Sweden is winning by a country mile. Why other countries don't understand this, I don't know. I don't know...

00:12:07 --> 00:12:21

Joanna Junak: Thank you, Martin. 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.