© 2024 WLRN
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Nicotine in a new shape: ZYN is Becoming the buzz of choice on college campuses

ZYN and other nicotine products on sale at a local gas station
Mariana Rios Candamil
ZYN and other nicotine products on sale at a local gas station.

Before DJ hits the gym, he reaches for three things: sneakers, water and a ZYN.

Haven't heard about it? ZYN is an increasingly popular, nicotine-based stimulant overshadowing vaping and smoking. The tobacco-free alternative attaches to the user’s gums and comes in cool flavors such as citrus, coffee, cool mint, wintergreen, and smooth.

Loosely regulated, widely available and highly addictive, ZYN is quickly becoming the new buzz of choice for young consumers, raising concern among parents and making them the fix of choice available almost everywhere.

READ MORE: Florida gets 'F' in protecting residents from tobacco dangers

“All you need is an energy drink, a ZYN, and you can go to the gym. It gives me energy to work out,” said DJ, a student at Florida Atlantic University who declined to give his last name.

These pouches are able to adapt to any setting due to the discrete packaging. Unlike vaping or tobacco products, you will never know if someone has a pouch in their gum.

Students who have made the pouches part of their daily routine said that they often have the urge to “pop a ZYN” at the gym, at the club, or even before studying.

“My friend would never want to study without ZYNs,” said Divardo Cimervil, an FAU student majoring in sports science. “He would say, ‘I have to grab a pack of George Washinzyns,’ referring to one of the many nicknames the pouches have garnered.

The rising popularity of ZYN should not be surprising. Nicotine addiction has been an ongoing issue for minors. Teens are particularly susceptible to addiction;90 percent of adults who smoke start before the age of 18. It is a violation of federal law for any retailer to sell any nicotine or tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.

Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York said in a January press conference that ZYN targets teens and young adults through calculated social media marketing and “high levels of nicotine.” ZYN’s website state that the pouches are for “adult nicotine consumers 21+ only.”

“Our schools have been inundated with E-CIGS, and we took action seeking federal results. ZYN is the next battle,” Schumer said at a press conference.

While Schumer is warning parents and consumers of the addictiveness of the pouches, some congressmen support the use of ZYN.

Rep. Richard Hudson, a Republican from North Carolina, responded to Schumer by saying, “Big Brother Schumer doesn’t want us to chew or smoke. Now he’s against an alternative that’s helped many quit. Come and take it!”

Indeed, the question of whether the pouches should be regulated have made an appearance in the nation’s ongoing culture wars, with far-right media Tucker Carlson and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene defending its use.

Schumer said he is warning parents that ZYN is luring young people to try their pouches and using social media to keep them hooked.

While scrolling down TikTok, like any teen would, videos promoting ZYN are easy to find.

“I have seen many videos on TikTok promoting ZYN, showing how their life was boring before using them, and now it is better. It could convince minors to try it,” said Mackenzie Mercier, a criminal justice major at FAU.

ZYN nicotine pouches are popular on college campuses.
Mariana Rios Candamil
ZYN nicotine pouches are popular on college campuses.

While videos promoting this product can be seen by minors on social media apps like Tik Tok, it is also not hard to get their hands on them.

“It is too easy for minors to buy them; they can get a fake ID and go to the gas station. They are only about five dollars,” explains Olivia Zeltman, an FAU student majoring in communication studies.

Due to concerns about minors abusing this product, British Columbiaordered nicotine pouches to be out behind the pharmacy counter in an effort to prevent minors from having access to purchasing them.

ZYN was one of the first nicotine pouches to be distributed in the United States by Swedish Match, acquired by Philip Morris. Philip Morris, one of thelargest tobacco companies in the world, has come under fire for making new products and marketing them as a substitute for tobacco, even when evidence suggests that they may be just as addictive.

Phillip Morris owns brands such as Marlboro, Merit, and Chesterfield cigarettes. Given their history of making addictive tobacco products, critics say it’s hard to believe that ZYN was really made to stop nicotine addiction..

On theZYN website, shoppers can search for their products at any local store in the United States, Canada, Denmark, Philippines, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. They also allow consumers to shop online and explain that they have a strict age verification to purchase.

Many students at FAU use ZYN and think it is a good substitute for vaping and smoking, since it does not include inhaling vapor and is marketed as a tobacco-free alternative to smoking.

“I think a ZYN is better for you because you get addicted to vapes faster, and it hurts your lungs, especially for athletes who play sports,” explained Zeltman. “You also get addicted to the motion of vapes. The up and down motion to your mouth. I see my friends very addicted to them. I noticed it’s much less for ZYN.”

The most alluring feature to most people seems to be the non-smoking part. People believe they are protecting their lungs with ZYN, but the potential side effects are still unknown.

“There is no healthier alternative – it still messes you up regardless. You're just damaging a different part of your body,” said Stan Lee, an architecture student at FAU. “It is definitely going to affect your gums.”

The side effects of ZYN differ from cigarettes and vapes because of the different modes of entry into the body. Some of theside effects include mouth or gum irritation, nausea, but all have addiction as a common side effect.

“People start with tobacco cigarettes, then they start vaping to try to stop cigarettes, then they use ZYN to try to stop vaping. It is a never-ending cycle of addiction. What will be next?” asks Mercier.

Little to no research has been done on the long-term side effects of regularly using ZYN.

“Health campaigns warning of potential adverse health outcomes of nicotine pouches are needed,” said Dr. Nigar Nargis, senior scientific director,in a 2022 studyon tobacco control research at the American Cancer Society.

Experts say time will tell what adverse health outcomes might manifest as the popularity of these highly addictive pouches grows.

This story was produced by MediaLab@FAU, a project of Florida Atlantic University School of Communication and Multimedia Studies, as part of a content sharing partnership with the WLRN newsroom. The reporter can be reached here.

More On This Topic