Wednesday, August 18, 2021 - 10:16am

New findings from the U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) outline a troubling new trend in tobacco use – the rise of the nicotine pouch. Nicotine pouches, which have skyrocketed in popularity over the last five years, are small packets placed between the lip and the gum that allow users to absorb nicotine in their system.

A recent CDC study examined sales of these products over five years and found that nicotine pouch sales increased from 163,178 units sold in 2016 to 45,965,455 units sold in just the first six months of 2020. While mint pouches were the most sold across the five years of the study, fruit-flavored pouches outsold all other types in the first six months of 2020.

“Just when we were making progress, along come these new flavored and highly addictive products that are even easier for kids to hide,” said Myranda Phelps-McGuire. “We still have a lot of work in front of us.”

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance that carries specific health risks for young people, such as damaging the parts of the brain that control memory and learning. The new pouches carry as much as six milligrams of nicotine per pouch.

The growth in sales for flavored pouches is concerning because the tobacco industry has historically been successful in getting youth to try flavored tobacco products. In Wisconsin, 96% of middle school students say they wouldn’t try an unflavored e-cigarette. Further, at least 80% of youth tobacco users started with a flavored product. To go with their many flavors, nicotine pouches also come in brightly packaged containers that resemble mint tins.

Myranda Phelps-McGuire worries that students will bring these pouches with them when they return to classrooms in a few weeks. “We’re seeing them pop up in more stores, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see kids sneaking them into school this fall – especially since they come in flavors like mango, cinnamon, lollipop, and citrus burst.”

The Dane County Alliance Against Commercial Tobacco encourages readers to visit www.tobaccoischanging.com, where they can see what today’s tobacco products look like, learn about tactics that are used to target youth and specific communities, and read about policies to protect young people and make it easier for them to live tobacco and nicotine-free lives.

Nicotine-addicted youth can also text VAPEFREE to 873373 for free help to quit. And, if parents want to get more involved in community prevention efforts, they are invited to learn more about the Dane County Alliance Against Commercial Tobacco by visiting this website.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services funds Public Health Madison & Dane County to coordinate DC AACT.

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