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Will there be an upcoming ‘Zynsurrection’ in the US, or is it much ado about nothing?

With Zyn nicotine pouches flying off the shelves in the US so quickly as to have surpassed the expectations of even maker Philip Morris International (PMI), it’s no surprise to see haters coming out of the woodwork.

But with calls for a whole “Zynsurrection” in support of the product (or perhaps just to oppose critics on partisan grounds), opposition to the rise of Zyn could end up being nothing more than a lot of noise.

Recently, Democratic senator from New York Chuck Schumer called for a federal crackdown on Zyn nicotine pouches, claiming the product is being marketed towards teens. He has asked the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as well as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate the company’s marketing efforts and the product’s potential negative public health impact.

“Amid federal action against e-cigs and their grip on young people, a quiet and dangerous alternative has emerged, and it is called Zyn,” said Schumer. “I am delivering a new warning to parents because these nicotine pouches seem to lock their sights on teens and use social media to hook them.”

 

Very little backing on either side of the aisle

 

Somewhat surprisingly, bipartisan opposition to Schumer’s position sprang up quickly. Among support for Zyn from scientists, industry members and Republican lawmakers – who would likely call the sky red if Schumer said it was blue – came opposition from an unexpected source in the junior Democratic senator from Pennsylvania, John Fetterman.

This intervention on the issue by Fetterman – a renowned independently opinionated voice in the Democratic party – is still notable in this time of hyper-partisanship, particularly in an election year when US parties tend to band closer together.

What makes the situation more surprising is a seeming lack of support for Schumer from other Democratic politicians – the sort of effort that would be necessary to start a domino effect and achieve enough momentum to affect change through legislative means.

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    Perhaps keeping support at bay is Schumer’s tendency to do this sort of thing rather frequently. In the past year he has called for action on subjects like AI, 3D printed weaponry, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine shortages and airline ticketing practices. Republicans think he should focus on major issues like the fentanyl epidemic and border security.

     

    FDA still more focused on vaping products than smokeless tobacco

     

    For now, the FDA seems more focused on disposables and e-cigarettes in terms of tobacco control. It has issued just a few warning letters for pouches, like those for the Amarillo pouch in August 2023 – though Amarillo is a bit unusual in that its pouches used corn husks as a base for the nicotine rather than a tobacco substance.

    In September 2023, the FDA also issued a civil money penalty to a New York-based retailer for selling oral nicotine products to an under-age purchaser whose age was not verified before the sale. Another such penalty was issued to a retailer for the same reason in the sale of Zyn Smooth oral nicotine products.

    The last time the FDA imposed a no-tobacco-sale order (NTSO) on a retailer of smokeless tobacco products was in August 2020. That retailer repeatedly violated the federal “Tobacco 21” law and sold its products to under-age consumers.

    This might give an idea of the stance that the federal agency is going to pursue in the future unless there are regulatory changes. There are indeed a few enforcement actions against nicotine pouches, and the number of warning letters issued about pouches also cannot be compared with that of those issued on e-cigarettes, including disposables, where the FDA seems to want to keep shining its spotlight.

    – Antonia Di Lorenzo TobaccoIntelligence staff

    Photo: Dyana Wing So

    Antonia Di Lorenzo

    Assistant news editor
    Antonia is a member of the editorial team and holds a masters degree in Law from the University of Naples Federico II, Italy. She moved in 2013 to London, where she completed a postgraduate course at the London School of Journalism. In the UK, she worked as a news reporter for a financial newswire and a magazine before moving to Barcelona in 2019.