Nicotine pouch legalization opens door for new vices

Nicotine pouch legalization opens door for new vices

Public health experts concerned about novel, illegal products

A new form of nicotine consumption is emerging across in Canada, leaving public health experts concerned. At Queen’s, its market share is still in question.

Small nicotine pouches are gaining popularity in Canada but remain illegal in high concentrations. Public health experts weigh in on whether the spike in products such as Zyn is a concern, as vapes remaining a more popular product for students.

“We’ve had [conversations] in some of our regional meetings. These are new nicotine products that have been on the market illegally,” said Cathy Edwards, a public health nurse at Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health, in an interview with The Journal.

Zonnic, a pouch of nicotine and flavouring placed inside the mouth for consumption, was legalized at low concentrations in October for smoking cessation use.

Public health experts worry it’s opened a Pandora’s box of new, and illegal, nicotine products. Zyn, it’s more potent counterpart, is gaining popularity in Kingston, with some pouches carrying up to nine milligrams of nicotine, the equivalent of over 20 cigarettes.

“The way [nicotine pouches are] marketed is very similar to how e-cigarettes are marketed. There’s a lot of youth appeal,” Edwards said. “The concern for public health is this could be another product that could lead to nicotine addiction.”

Fans of Zyn can allegedly cross the border into the US to purchase their stash, bringing it back into Kingston under the radar. Online users claim it’s easy to order lower concentration pouches.

At Queen’s it remains unclear how popular Zyn and other nicotine pouches are. To sell vapes in Canada, stores require a licence that, as of now, doesn’t cover pouched products.

“Some [students] ask, but I tell them we don’t carry any of this type of stuff,” said Preet Patel, employee at the new Dazzled vape store, in an interview with The Journal.

Dazzled is at the intersection of Johnson and Division St., two blocks from campus, making it a hot spot for Queen’s students.

“Here [there’s] the student culture, so they’re more into vapes and all those things,” Patel said.

Despite the government capping nicotine concentration in vapes at 20 milligrams, most students Patel interacts with request even lower concentrations when they come into the shop.

At Queen’s, nicotine consumption remains on par with the Canadian average in the undergraduate age group. In the 2022 Student Health Surveys Overview report, 25 per cent of Queen’s students reported consuming nicotine or tobacco over the past three months, with 20 per cent using vape devices.

Though most experts concede that vaping isn’t as damaging as smoking, the use of e-cigarettes amongst young adults remains a concern.

“A lot of emergent studies are really suggesting e-cigarettes can cause, similarly to tobacco smoking, cellular alterations within the lungs, so inflammation, DNA damage, that type of thing,” Edwards said.

In the beginning, e-cigarettes were lauded as a smoking cessation product. Now, public health experts aren’t so sure.

In 2022, Health Canada released data showing 66 per cent of Canadians aged 18 to 24 vaped before ever having a tobacco cigarette, demonstrating e-cigarettes aren’t being used for smoking cessation.

Products such as Zyn are discreetly placed in the mouth and convenient in places where vaping is inappropriate or even banned, such as on campus at Queen’s. Though students are drifting away from high nicotine concentrations, it’s unclear if this new method of administration will be used by students. Edwards warns that vaping could lead to smoking.

“If they’re vaping nicotine, there is that chance that they will move to using a combustible cigarette, not an e-cigarette. So, then they’re going towards smoking,” Edwards said.

Source: Queens Journal