What Is Zyn? These Nicotine Pouches Are Fueling Addiction and Possibly Gum Damage

Zyn, a line of popular nicotine pouches paves a different path to addiction and maybe even gum cancer.

Eva Hagan - Author

Feb. 14 2024, Published 12:48 p.m. ET

A container of nicotine pouches with smoke around it sits on a black background.
Source: iStock

Zyn pouches are oral nicotine products and have become a popular tobacco-free alternative to smoking. The pouches are meant to be placed between your gum and cheek and come in different flavors, such as mint and citrus.

Although these pouches were invented to curb smoking addictions, experts worry that nicotine pouches might not be effective in helping people quit smoking and even cause nicotine addictions for people who aren't already addicted.

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Many worry that Zyn products could also pose a threat to oral health. Experts worry Zyn could damage the tissue, raising concerns about gum disease if placed directly on the gums. This begs the question, is Zyn bad for your gums? We did some research.

A close up of a woman putting a nicotine pouch in her mouth on her gums.
Source: iStock
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Is Zyn bad for your gums?

Some experts believe that Zyn pouches are bad for your gums. Irfan Rahman, a researcher at the University of Rochester Medicine, told The New York Times that there is a concern about nicotine products deteriorating periodontal and gum tissue.

According to The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Health Center, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has very loose regulations on smokeless tobacco products, and there is a lack of data to determine how harmful these products could be. However, some side effects include a sore mouth, irritated gums, hiccups, nausea, and nicotine addiction.

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Does Zyn cause gum cancer?

There are concerns that using Zyn could increase the risk of gum cancer. Dr. Mustali Dohadwala, board-certified cardiologist and medical director at Heartsafe, told CBS News, "There are toxic chemicals in these pouches, which can lead to injury of the gums. Persistent, recurrent injury can end up leading to inflammation, infection but most importantly cancer."

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A study in 2022 assessed the contents of nicotine pouches and found that out of 44 products, 26 contained carcinogenic tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs). This means that although the smokeless alternative could curb some lung and heart problems, it could be contributing to mouth cancer instead, per Medical News Today.

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Dr. Dohadwala told CBS News that using nicotine this way can have other health impacts too. Consuming nicotine can increase blood pressure and heart rate, put stress on the gastrointestinal system, and even increase the risk of diabetes.

Zyn may pose a risk to teens as well.

Much of the conversation surrounding Zyn is about the potential harm to teens and young adults, who can become easily addicted to products like this and are often the target of many marketing campaigns.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 2022 to 2023, the most widely used nicotine products for teens were e-cigarettes such as vapes, with 7.7 percent of the population, around 2.13 million people, using them.

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The issue with the pouches has even entered politics. In January 2024, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) held a press conference to call for action from the FDA to regulate products like Zyn. Schumer expressed concern over the appeal of products like these to teens, especially through social media marketing, per The Hill.

According to The New York Times, Zyn pouches are marketed by influencers all over TikTok. Many young adults and teens are seeing Zyn content in their feeds and could be influenced to try the product, putting them in line for many potential health risks at a very young age.

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