Nicotine Pouches – A New Menace

Nicotine Pouches – A New Menace

By: Muhammad Kashif

Under the guise of “Smoking Cessation” and “Reduced Harm” international tobacco giants have launched a new menace into society in the shape of nicotine pouches. Brands like ZYN and VELO have become extremely popular amongst the youth, considered to be the “it” product. Available in dozens of flavors, including recent additions, it is the latest edition to Big Tobacco’s portfolio of products marketed to the youth.

Nicotine pouches are extremely affordable and available at all shops, including corner markets or khokhas. Nicotine pouches are more commonly used by young adults aged 18 to 24. A study by Global Tobacco Control showed that 22% of tobacco vendors across 8 megacities have nicotine pouches displays at stores and 13% of tobacco vendors have advertisements for these products posted at their point of sale.

International Tobacco Companies have been using numerous marketing strategies to attract not only chronic cigarette consumers but non-smokers as well. These include but are not limited to free sampling at public spaces, hiring actors such as Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan, exuberant ad campaigns, and sponsoring music shows such as the VELO Sound Station with over 400 million views.

The use of deceptive marketing strategies is explicitly prohibited under Section 10 of the Competition Act 2010; hence these strategies are a blatant disregard of the law.

Moreover, on January 30, 2020, the Ministry of Health’s Tobacco Smoke Free Cities project issued SRO 72(1)/2020, prohibiting online and point-of-sale promotion of tobacco products. According to WHO, tobacco-derived NGTPs such as E-cigarettes and nicotine pouches are harmful to the lungs, pose a health risk, and require regulation.

However, alternate nicotine products, especially nicotine pouches, stay majorly unregulated with no proper taxation system and health warnings. Often, these items manage to evade scrutiny, circumventing existing regulations and posing further health risks to users. It is imperative to implement rigorous measures to curb the proliferation of such products and ensure the protection of consumers, especially youth, from potential harm.

Regulating nicotine pouches in Pakistan stands as a crucial public health imperative. Establishing a comprehensive regulatory framework entailing implementing vendor licensing and regulating all forms of smokeless tobacco, drawing insights from global practices, addressing the menace of unregulated nicotine pouches, and addressing addiction among children.

Prompt and resolute action by policymakers is imperative to safeguard the health of the people and mitigate the escalating health risks associated with nicotine pouch consumption in Pakistan.