CULLIP: Zyn Outcry Exposes Anti-Smoking Orgs Fighting To Protect Cigs From Competition

Martin Cullip Contributor
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In January, Democratic New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate a product called “Zyn,” due to supposed concerns about marketing and health effects. 

Zyn is a brand of nicotine pouch that resembles a small teabag and contains plant-based fibers infused with nicotine. It isn’t smoked, it does not contain any tobacco, and presents almost none of the known risks of combustible cigarettes. And yet, anti-smoking organizations are still trying to get it taken off shelves.

Despite recent data from the FDA and CDC indicating that nicotine pouch use among youth is “exceptionally low,” anti-smokers are already raising the specter of youth use in their attempt to create a similar moral panic to the one they created about vaping products.

News sites have been awash with scary clickbait articles, eagerly supported by the anti-smoking industry willing to offer prognostications of doom. 

One example (out of very many) is Health News Florida, which reports that “[h]ealth advocates fear Zyn, like e-cigs, may catch on with teens due to its addictive nicotine.” Kathy Crosby, CEO of the Truth Initiative, a group that claims to be working toward the end of smoking yet is bitterly opposed to any lower-risk alternatives to smoking, was happy to be the convenient “concerned” spokesperson. It should be noted that Crosby left an executive-level position at the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products to join Truth, the same agency that has authorized only a handful of reduced risk tobacco products over the past half decade.

It’s no wonder Schumer was the one who raised the alarm about a non-existent danger. Anti-nicotine campaigners have long had his ear. He has opposed vaping for years, parroting every item of misinformation nicotine prohibitionists peddle to undermine the most effective smoking cessation method ever conceived. 

Instead of being interested in the potential of novel nicotine products to help transition people who smoke from combustible tobacco (which will likely kill them) onto products that likely won’t, the instinct is always to ban first and ask questions later. 

This is not a new phenomenon. As The Local Sweden reported recently, “[a]ccording to the [Swedish] government, snus has helped slash the number of smokers from 15 percent of the population in 2005 to 5.2 percent last year, a record low in Europe.”

This success is unavailable to other countries in the EU because snus — a product like nicotine pouches but containing pasteurized tobacco purged of carcinogens — was banned in all member states in 1992 following a moral panic led by shroud-waving anti-smoking campaigners. It didn’t matter that it had been used in Sweden for more than 200 years or that there were decades of research showing negligible risk compared to combustible cigarettes. 

Likewise, Japan has experienced a staggering 50-percent collapse in cigarette sales since heated tobacco — a vastly less harmful product than combustible tobacco — was introduced to the nicotine market in 2016. This collapse of the market happened despite the Japanese government’s disapproval and attempts by anti-smoking organizations worldwide to stop this new technology.

Detractors of reduced-risk nicotine products (exclusively anti-smoking activists) are eager to cheer future unknown risks while ignoring potential public health benefits. 

Zyn has only been on the U.S. market since 2014, but Johns Hopkins University is quick to express certainty that the product “can be addictive and cause cardiovascular issues.” Note the sowing of doubt by the same university when faced with vaping, which has not caused any major health problems anywhere in the world in more than 20 years. In that case, they claim that “[b]ecause vape products are still relatively new, it’s difficult to ascertain the scope of long-term health effects on users.”

None of these anti-smoking voices seem remotely concerned that the FDA has authorized 212 combustible tobacco products to be sold in the U.S. since Aug. 2020. Instead, they are incensed that by the same process (and in the same timeframe) the FDA has authorized just 23 e-cigarettes – from over six million applications — which pose a tiny fraction of the risk of combustible tobacco. 

Vapes, heated tobacco, snus, and nicotine pouches (including Zyn) all have the potential to significantly reduce harm from smoking by competing with traditional cigarettes. Yet it is anti-smoking organizations that are fighting hard to eradicate them. 

It’s still possible to create an America in which most nicotine users get their buzz via reduced-risk options, rather than through smoking, which kills 480,000 people every year. Sadly, the debacle over Zyn has shown it will not happen while anti-smoking advocates continue their strenuous efforts to prevent it.

Martin Cullip is an International Fellow at The Taxpayers Protection Alliance’s Consumer Center and is based in South London, U.K. 

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.