Zyn user vs PMI: US tobacco giant faces first big challenge to nicotine pouches

A consumer has sued Philip Morris International (PMI) over its nicotine pouch brand, Zyn, claiming that the product is harmful and addictive to young people.

The lawsuit marks the first major challenge to oral nicotine pouches, with the plaintiff, Bailey Wolters, alleging addiction and dental issues after using the product.

According to media outlets, the suit, seeking class-action status, states that the pouches deliver more nicotine than cigarettes and that PMI benefits from “Zynfluencers” who promote the brand on social media platforms.

It also names Swedish Match as a defendant, which made the pouches before a PMI affiliate bought it for $16bn in 2022. Both companies failed to warn about “the risk of addiction and other harmful effects like cognitive issues, cardiovascular injuries, gastrointestinal problems and gum disease,” according to the allegations.


PMI unlikely to ‘fold under pressure’


“We are aware of media reports that a lawsuit has been filed in California in relation to one of our affiliate’s smoke-free products,” a spokesperson from PMI told TobaccoIntelligence. “Although we have not yet been served with the complaint and are not in a position to comment, we can assure you that the interests of PMI and its affiliates will be vigorously defended.”

The case has raised criticism among industry members. Gregory Conley, director of legislative and external affairs of the American Vapor Manufacturers (AVM), said this case should be dismissed, since Zyn marketing in the US has been responsible in contrast to Juul and that’s why youth use has remained low.

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    “Trial attorneys will find this difficult to stomach, but not every nicotine company is going to be Juul and fold under pressure like a house of cards,” Conley told TobaccoIntelligence. “Here, you have a case involving a plaintiff who did not begin using Zym until 2019, which was a year after warning labels on nicotine-containing products became mandatory.”


    Haters as a measure of success


    During the presentation of its financial results, PMI reported good numbers for the year – driven by the strong performance of its Zyn nicotine pouch brand in the US, following its acquisition of Swedish Match.

    “When we announced our offer for Swedish Match in 2022, we targeted a return on investment over our cost of capital within five years,” said PMI chief financial officer Emmanuel Babeau. “With the growth of Zyn surpassing our expectations, we now expect to achieve this well ahead of time.”

    With Zyn nicotine pouches flying off the shelves in the US so quickly as to have exceeded PMI’s expectations, it is no surprise to see haters coming out of the woodwork.

    Recently, New York Democratic senator 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. However, with calls for a “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.

    – Antonia Di Lorenzo TobaccoIntelligence staff

    Photo: Divya Agrawal

    Antonia Di Lorenzo

    Assistant news editor/senior reporter
    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.

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