Health Canada Authorizes Nicotine Pouch For the First Time

While the European Union is striving to ban nicotine pouches, Health Canada has just authorized one as an NRT.

Nicoventures Trading has just been authorized by Health Canada to market Zonnic, a nicotine pouch, as a smoking cessation aid for adults. It has been licensed as a Natural Health Product and has been granted Health Canada’s authorization as a form of Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT).

Resembling tea bags, nicotine pouches (NPs) are placed under the upper lip for 30-60 minutes, delivering a nicotine dose. They’re free of tobacco, odor, and unlike snuff require no spitting. Made from vegetable fibers with added nicotine and varied flavours, these pouches are gaining global traction for their harm reduction potential.

The efficacy of nicotine pouches as NRTs is undeniable
While the European Union would like to ban them, and some nations, such as New Zealand already have, a recent GSTHR briefing paper has highlighted their efficacy. NPs provide an alternative to cigarettes, delivering nicotine hence reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms, without combustion. Studies suggest their effectiveness, in offering a discreet, convenient, and safer way to wean off smoking, which of course would be particularly useful in regions with high oral tobacco risks.

Exclusive distribution of the approved product in Canada will be handled by tobacco company Imperial Tobacco Canada (ITCAN), a subsidiary of British American Tobacco (BAT). According to ITCAN President and CEO Frank Silva, this development marks a significant milestone for the nation, given that no other nicotine pouch has previously received approval from Health Canada.

In its submissions to the health regulator, Nicoventures included a pharmacokinetics study comparing the nicotine bioavailability of Zonnic to other commercially available NRTs. The study demonstrated the nicotine delivery effectivity of the product, on par with that of other leading NRTs.

Silva highlighted the potential of achieving the ambitious goal of becoming smokefree by 2035 by reducing smoking rates below 5%, a goal recently achieved by Sweden by endorsing the use of snus for smoking cessation. He emphasized that embracing less harmful nicotine products and creating a supportive policy environment could drive further reductions in smoking rates in Canada.

The public at large still lacks awareness about NPs
Meanwhile, a recent study published in Tobacco Prevention and Cessation examined young adults’ nicotine pouch awareness, use, and intentions for use. The study “Nicotine pouch awareness, use and perceptions among young adults from six metropolitan statistical areas in the United States,” analysed survey data from 942 young adults recruited via social media from six US cities.

A total of 34.6% of the participants reported awareness of nicotine pouches and 9.8% reporting ever using them. Increased odds of awareness were associated with males, non-white participants, and users of cigarettes, vapes, and smokeless tobacco (SLT). Naturally, those aware of nicotine pouches, were more likely to use them, with male gender and SLT use predicting higher intentions of use.

About 31.4% of the participants reported exposure to advertising in the past month, mainly through tobacco retailers. Most ever users, at 46.7%, bought pouches from gas stations. Common motives for use were quitting smoking (16.8%) and reducing tobacco smell (15.4%). The pouches were perceived as less harmful and addictive than other products and more socially acceptable than cigarettes and SLT.

Other recent findings revealed some stereotypes surrounding the products. A CASAA survey found that while approximately 45% of adult smokers are women and 55% are men, only about one-third of those transitioning to oral tobacco products are women. This unbalance between male and female consumers seems to be stemming from the fact that in the past oral tobacco products needed to be spat out. Due to this, the products are still considered “non lady-like” by many.