Sponsored News

The Rise in Popularity of Nicotine Pouches and Legislation in the USA

We take a look at the rise of nicotine pouches in the American market

Share on:

META: Nicotine pouches are enjoying unprecedented growth in the USA and fast becoming a favourite amongst Americans looking for a cigarette-alternative, find out why in this article.


1.     Introduction to Nicotine Pouches in the USA.

2.     What Factors Have Contributed to the Rise in Popularity of Nicotine Pouches in the USA?

3.     What Is the USA’s Legal Framework Surrounding Nicotine Pouches?

4.     Future Outlook for Nicotine Pouches in the USA and Potential Changes.

5.     To Conclude.

The first nicotine pouch to arrive in the USA was ten years ago, in 2014, slightly ahead of the rest of the world and marketed by Swedish Match North America. The products were available in some stores and online (and continue to be today).  However, nicotine pouches weren’t that widely distributed in the country until 2015/2016.

The swift rise of nicotine pouches over the next couple of years was thanks to a mainly Gen-Z audience before popularity grew amongst older adults.  From 2016 and 2020, growth in the USA continued to be extremely encouraging, and dollar sales of nicotine pouches increased by an eye-watering 305%. The same study reports the market will reach up to $33 billion by 2026.  Not only is this down to pouches’ remarkable popularity amongst younger and more recently, older adults but it is also due to extensive marketing campaigns by manufacturers, wide availability online from websites like pouchmafia.com and snuzzer.com and the fact that these tobacco-replacement products are perceived as safer than traditional, tobacco cigarettes. Additionally, at around $7 a pack of nicotine pouches, it’s a cheaper alternative to cigarettes, which cost up to $12.00 a pack (depending on which state they are purchased in). We’ll discuss other reasons why the market for nicotine pouches in the USA continues to be strong later in this article.

Understanding Nicotine Pouches

First, it’s important to explain what nicotine pouches are.  They are oral products, intended for recreational purposes, however, they are also suitable for smoking cessation.  Nicotine pouches contain a cellulose matrix (the pouch) consisting of mainly synthetic nicotine, and other harmless chemicals. Many nicotine pouches also contain flavourings, much like vape products, making them even more enticing and contributing to their popularity. 

Using a nicotine pouch is very simple.  They are placed inside the mouth (orally) and sit either behind the lip, or between the gum and cheek areas.  The nicotine is slowly released into saliva and the gums, and effects usually last anything from half an hour to two hours, depending on the strength of the pouch.  Importantly, nicotine pouches are tobacco-free, which is another reason why they’re becoming an attractive alternative to cigarettes.  Mainly this is because tobacco is the biggest health risk associated with smoking cigarettes, and nicotine, while an addictive substance, is non-carcinogenic, and might, for some people, have health benefits.

What Factors Have Contributed to the Rise in Popularity of Nicotine Pouches in the USA?

There are several reasons why these products have grown in popularity in the US:

1                 A Significant Ad Campaign in 2019

Firstly, the big brand names producing nicotine pouches for the US market conducted a large-scale advertising campaign 5 years ago, raising awareness of the products.  The campaign cost $11.2 million and was spread across a few mediums, including online and offline.  This included a successful Gen-Z influencer campaign.

2                 A Tobacco-Free Alternative

Next, and very importantly, the products were advertised (and continue to be marketed with legislation in place) as tobacco-free.  There is no tobacco in nicotine pouches.  As mentioned above, tobacco is the dangerous ingredient found in traditional cigarettes and the combustion of tobacco makes it a health risk.  Inhaling burning tobacco into the lungs contributes to lung disease, especially lung cancer.  Other cancers caused by cigarette smoking include (this list is not exhaustive): mouth cancer, tongue cancer, oral cancer and throat cancer.  There is also association with bladder cancer.  Tobacco contributes to heart disease, exacerbates asthma and increases risk of other health problems.  As nicotine pouches do not contain tobacco, these risks are severely reduced.

3                 Nicotine Pouches are Permitted In Public Spaces

Between 2004 and 2007, a no-smoking ban in public places rolled out in the USA, slowly filtering through to all states, making it harder to smoke indoors, and even in some outdoor spaces thus limiting cigarette smokers to small, enclosed outdoor areas. To combat this, many smokers turned to vape products/e-cigs or a combination of both products. However, in recent years, some states have banned vape products in public places as well, due to the growing list of health risks associated with the vapour.  As nicotine pouches are entirely discreet, do not create smoke or vapour (so cannot be inhaled as second-hand smoke), and don’t emit an unpleasant odour, they have become a very attractive alternative.  They can be used anywhere in the USA, and at any time.

4                 Nicotine Pouches are Less Expensive than Cigarettes

In some states (e.g., New York) a pack of cigarettes now costs $11.96, whereas nicotine pouches start from $7 a pack, signalling a significant cost-saving.  Moreover, the effects of nicotine pouches last longer than cigarettes – up to 2 hours (brand-dependent), whereas the effects of cigarettes are short-lived (a few minutes). Smokers tend to go through more cigarettes and therefore need to replenish empty packets faster, leading to greater cost.  It also has to be said that vape products are much more expensive than nicotine pouches and cigarettes – especially the vessels used and the cost of the liquids.

5                 Flavour Choice

Flavours are another reason why nicotine pouches are growing in popularity in the USA.  One reason why vape products enjoyed such a surge in popularity during the noughties was the range of flavours available.  Nicotine pouches also come in a broad selection of flavours, including mint, fruit, cocktail flavours, and more – giving the user wide choice and essentially, offering something for everyone.

6                 Nicotine Pouches Do Not Have Stigma Attached

Going back to the ban on cigarettes and vaping products in the USA.  The ban has contributed to cigarettes becoming socially unacceptable in the USA.  It’s fair to say that smokers feel stigma when they light up a cigarette and nicotine pouches immediately remove the social stigma because they are not intrusive.

7                 Perceived as Healthier Than Cigarettes and Vapes

For smokers looking to quit entirely or who want a “healthier” alternative to smoking cigarettes, e-cigs and vapes; nicotine pouches are perceived as the ideal product.  As they’re tobacco-free, do not combust, do not emit smoke or vapours, and can be used indoors and in public spaces, they’re supposedly healthier.  The ingredient nicotine is addictive, but the advantages of a tobacco-free alternative often outweigh the risks, and therefore, oral pouches are seen as better for health than a combustible tobacco product.  Additionally, nicotine has some health benefits, in studies, it’s an appetite suppressant (excellent for combating obesity), it can boost memory (good for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients) and it can even alleviate Tourette’s syndrome, amongst other diseases.

What Is the USA’s Legal Framework Surrounding Nicotine Pouches?

Nicotine pouches, like other nicotine products, cigarettes and vapes are regulated in the USA. In March, 2022, the Consolidated Appropriations Act was signed by the US President, Joe Biden, which includes nicotine-only products as well as tobacco products and granted the FDA permission to manage the regulation of nicotine pouches (amongst others). 

The law essentially allows synthetic nicotine to be regulated properly, which means that manufacturers must submit a PMTA (pre-market tobacco application) for every product made.  The law also imposes strict industrial standards on the sector, and furthermore, retailers and wholesalers must ensure that every product they sell has the right authorisation and is compliant with the US legislation.

Advertising and Marketing

In terms of advertising, companies must ask permission from the FDA to market their products – the rules, at present, are the same as for vape products but as vape products involve combustion, this may well change in future.  Nicotine pouches are also age-restricted (not for use for under 18s - and must state as such on labelling) and come with a warning as follows: “WARNING: This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.”  Other warnings must be placed on packaging, e.g., ingredients, nicotine content, weight, manufacture date plus expiry and manufacturer details.

A Continuing Debate

Of course, nicotine pouches, like smoking products and other tobacco-free products containing nicotine are hotly debated in the USA.  Over the past decade, researchers and health regulators in the USA have begun to publicise that different products that come under the tobacco and nicotine umbrella post different health risks. 

In 2019, the FDA heralded nicotine pouches and snus as having less harmful effects due to their lower amounts of carcinogenic ingredients – and there continues to be much debate on the benefits for smokers switching over.

As nicotine pouches are still relatively new to the market (around a decade old), studies are ongoing, so it is still not completely clear as to the benefits or the risks.  However, many researchers expect the results of studies to confirm that nicotine pouches contain low amounts of carcinogenic substances, and harmful chemicals (e.g., formaldehyde and ammonia).  There is not much literature to date, but this doubtless will change over the next few years as studies come to fruition.

Future Outlook for Nicotine Pouches in the USA and Potential Changes

Nicotine pouches are going to continue to grow in popularity in the USA.  While sales continue to be buoyant (and will continue to increase), the health and legislation side of these products is still very complicated, and ever-changing.  Some health experts regard nicotine pouches as a safer alternative to smoking, and indeed herald these products as outstanding smoking cessation products.  Others, however, are still very much undecided on the health risks vs benefits of nicotine pouches.  The FDA is monitoring nicotine pouches and is especially considering the impact on younger people.  Going forward, research will continue, legislation will evolve, and more information will come to light  - but it is almost certain that nicotine pouches are a far less harmful alternative to combustible cigarettes.

To Conclude

To conclude, there’s definitely a shift away from traditional cigarettes and vaping products in the USA which is apparent due to the rapidly rising sales of pouches, which show no sign of letting up, further rubber-stamping the need for more smokeless alternatives.  As US legislation for nicotine pouches unfolds and more studies come to fruition, there should be robust information in place to demonstrate that pouches are the healthier choice compared to tobacco cigarettes.

Photo Credit:

Join the discussion