As most are now well aware, cigarette smoking causes a wide range of health issues. Chief among these are cancer, cardiovascular disease, COPD, and Type-2 diabetes –– not to mention an increased risk of things like strokes or pregnancy complications. Smoking also causes general inflammation and cell damage and can weaken the immune system –– which is why the FDA website points out that smokers are even at greater risk of severe complications from COVID-19.
Altogether, these risks are why a majority of people who smoke want to quit. And in the effort to do so, many have long turned to nicotine alternatives (such as sprays, patches, lozenges, and gum) to handle cravings and ebb away from the habit. Of late, however, a new nicotine product has emerged: Nicotine pouches are well on their way to becoming preferred options. These are small products filled only with nicotine, plant-based substances, and in some cases flavorings, that are placed in the mouth (between the gums and upper lip) to give out controlled amounts of nicotine. But as these products gain prominence on the market for those who hope to quit smoking, it’s important to ask: Are they healthier alternatives?
Here’s our examination.
1. No Tobacco
Many of the risks that come from smoking cigarettes relate specifically to tobacco –– such as a variety of cancers (mouth, throat, pancreatic, and lung), gum disease, heart disease, diabetes, and even stroke. These conditions are so prevalent that as of 2022, the CDC claims that as much as $225 billion is spent every year on treating them. Crucially, nicotine pouches do not contain any part of the tobacco plant, and thus can significantly reduce the risk of these conditions occurring (though those who have already been tobacco users are still at risk).
2. No Smoke Inhalation
The issue with inhalation is an interesting one. In recent years, many have turned to vape as a sort of alternative to smoking, hoping that a similar hobby without tobacco would involve fewer health risks. And yet, a Healthline article on vaping points out that this hobby too can hurt your lungs. As the user heats the liquid solution used in e-cigarettes, it turns into an aerosol, and when inhaled, this aerosol can cause damage to the respiratory tract and blood vessels. This leaves us with the fact that any inhalation of a substance –– smoke or aerosol –– can harm the lungs. Nicotine pouches, like other nicotine replacement products, do not involve either type of inhalation, and thus do not relate to lung damage.
3. No Tooth Staining or Bad Breath
Smoking cigarettes and the use of chewing tobacco also cause premature discoloration of the user’s teeth. This occurs because the tobacco leaves a filmy residue which causes the teeth to turn yellow, brown, and even black depending on the frequency of the habit. Once again, pouches do not cause the same issues. A blog post on whether using nicotine pouches stains your teeth by Prilla points out that it is the tobacco in other products that causes the staining and decay effects. Pouches, again, do not contain tobacco and therefore can be used without concern for tooth health. Relatedly, it is also tobacco that is responsible for bad breath in smokers and chewing tobacco users; pouches have no such effect, and can even result in good breath depending on the flavor one uses.
4. Possibly Fewer Cosmetic Effects
Smoking cigarettes is not only bad for the health but also appearance. For instance, a study entitled “The Effects of Smoking on Hair Health” conveys that hair loss is more prevalent in smokers as compared to non-smokers. This is because tobacco smoke exposure results in nicotine accumulation in hair follicles, which in turn affects the follicular growth cycle and ultimately results in alopecia, or balding. While there is nothing wrong with natural hair loss, of course, hair loss due to smoking is preventable. Nicotine pouches enable a user to enjoy a nicotine hit while keeping hair follicles safe.
While pouches are not FDA-approved yet, these factors do indicate that they are healthier alternatives to smoking. We hope this has been a useful read, and encourage you to return to Bulletin News for more health-related content as needed.