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My First Zyn Pouch

At the peak of my vaping habit, I was so dependent on my JUUL that I struggled to get through a 1 hour Zoom meeting without vaping (it was COVID, so I was working—and vaping—from home). I had seen some friends using a new nicotine pouch product, Zyn, so I figured I’d give it a try to keep me from vaping during the workday. Given that I was vaping nearly 40mg of nicotine daily, I assumed I’d be fine tucking in a 6mg Zyn before a long meeting.

I was not fine. Five minutes in, I told my colleagues someone was at the door and sprinted to spit out the Zyn pouch and dry heave over the trashcan.

If I was already used to regular nicotine consumption, why was this pouch so intense? What was this thing?


What is Zyn?

Zyn is a nicotine pouch that contains white powdered nicotine, along with additives, fillers, a stabilizer (hydroxypropyl cellulose), pH adjusters, noncaloric sweeteners, and flavorings (Oxford Journal of Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 2022). Studies have also shown it to contain low levels of ammonia, chromium, formaldehyde, and nickel (BMC Chemistry, 2023).

Zyn is the first nicotine pouch to be widely distributed in the United States, and lately it’s been rising in popularity—from social media “zynfluencers” to champions like Fox New’s Tucker Carlson, Emma Chamberlain, or Feed Me's Emily Sundberg.

It’s parent company, Swedish Match, was acquired by Philip Morris International (a major tobacco company) in 2022 for $16B USD. In 2023, PMI shipped 350 million cans to the US—a 62% increase compared to the previous year, PMI announced in February. Zyn pouches are sold in the US in 3mg and 6mg strengths, but are sold in higher strengths internationally. Other brands with similar nicotine pouch products are On!, Rouge, Velo, and more.

How does Zyn work?

According to the Zyn packaging, you simply “place the pouch into your upper lip and enjoy up to 1 hour.”

The nicotine in Zyn pouches is absorbed into your bloodstream through mucous membranes in your mouth, so technically you could also place it in your lower lip—the key is that it’s between your lip and your gum, so that the nicotine can be absorbed through your “oral mucosa”.


How does Zyn strength compare to other nicotine products?

What makes Zyn so “strong” is that the product is extremely efficient at nicotine delivery.

The amount of nicotine delivered from a 6mg Zyn is 3.5mgNicotine pouch delivery peaks from 10-30 minutes, which means you’d need to smoke 2 cigarettes or puff your Elfbar around 30 times in 30 minutes to get the same amount of nicotine as a 6mg Zyn—this explains why I felt like I’d been hit by a truck; I would usually only take a few puffs every 10-15 min… not one puff per minute.

Compared to an 8mg General Snus (a popular tobacco-based nicotine pouch), a 6mg Zyn delivers 34% more total nicotine—this is surprising considering that the 8mg Snus product is marketed to contain a full 2mg more nicotine than the 6mg Zyn product.

Compared to traditional nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products, both Zyn and Snus produce higher maximum blood nicotine concentration in shorter time and with a quicker onset of "head rush" (Oxford Journal of Nicotine & Tobacco Research). Because these products spike your blood nicotine, they are more addictive than FDA-approved NRT products like Jones Mints, even in lower strengths.

Are Zyns safe?

While there is not sufficient research to prove Zyn’s long-term safety, the medical and scientific communities are in agreement that nicotine pouches are safer than smoking or vaping. Oral nicotine pouches do not harm the lungs the same way smoking or vaping do and they do not contain the same harmful or carcinogenic ingredients as cigarettes or vape juice (Oxford Journal of Nicotine & Tobacco Research).

There is often confusion around what exactly is harmful in nicotine products. The truth is, nicotine as a substance is generally proven safe, non-carcinogenic, and even deemed a critical form of medicine to help people stop smoking in the form of NRT (CDC).

That said, just because Zyn is safer than smoking or vaping, that does not mean that it’s proven safe. While FDA-approved NRT has years of clinical studies showing its safety and efficacy, it is still too early to know the long-term risks of consistent Zyn use—as mentioned above, there are additives in Zyn like ammonia, formaldehyde, and nickel which may prove harmful after further research. Here’s what we do know:

  1. Zyn is shown to cause gum recession (Nature Portfolio 2023).
  2. Common side-effects include nausea, hiccups, gum irritation and sore mouth (WebMD).
  3. Zyn may increase risk of cardiovascular disease (Harvard School of Public Health).
  4. Zyn (or any nicotine use) is harmful to developing brains, generally defined as people under the age of 25 (CDC.)
  5. Zyn products are still highly addictive (Harvard School of Public Health).

What is going on with Zyn today? 

Most recently, Zyn ceased all online sales of their products on their website as they are under investigation for potentially violating a ban on flavored nicotine and synthetic nicotine in Washington D.C. (Yahoo). The FDA also announced that they issues 119 warning letters and filed 41 civil money penalty complaints towards retails that sold flavored Zyn pouches to underage users (FDA). 

Can Zyn help me quit vaping or smoking?

While Zyn is safer than vaping or smoking, it’s still highly addictive. If the choice is between Zyn and a more harmful form of nicotine consumption, you’re better off with Zyn. However, Zyn is not going to help you quit nicotine.

If you’re trying to quit vaping or smoking, doctors recommend using FDA-approved nicotine replacement products combined with behavioral support. This combination is clinically proven to be the safest and most effective way to quit (Cochrane Review).

Jones is the only NRT on the market that offers FDA-approved nicotine mints and CBT-based behavioral support all in one place—personal quit plans, an SMS coach, and a free app with tracking, games, and a supportive community of quitters.

In short, Zyn might help you vape or smoke less, but there are better ways to quit!