Monday, May 11, 2020

First Study of ZYN, A Novel Consumer Nicotine Product

The American Journal on Addictions has just published (here) an analysis by my colleagues and me of the consumer appeal of a new nicotine product, ZYN.

Swedish Match test-marketed ZYN six years ago in Colorado; distribution expanded to 11 states in the western U.S. in 2016, and nationwide in April 2019.  While ZYN marketing was limited to a website and point-of-sale promotions, press reports (here, here and here) indicated remarkable sales success. 

In 2018, the company commissioned from a private contractor two marketing surveys on ZYN perceptions and use.  Last year a research group consisting of Drs. Karl Fagerström from Sweden and John Hughes from the University of Vermont, as well as Nantaporn Plurphanswat and me from the University of Louisville, was granted full access by Swedish Match to that survey data so that we could produce an independent analysis.  Our group previously published a research article describing how proposed changes in Swedish snus warning labels would affect tobacco users’ perceptions and use of the products (here).  Other than providing us with the data, the company had no role in our analysis or reporting of the results.       

In the current study, we assess adult appeal and interest in buying ZYN, and we describe the characteristics of ZYN users and patterns of ZYN use after purchase.

We found that while nearly 90% of never and former tobacco users did not find ZYN to be appealing, one-third of current smokers, more than half of current smokeless tobacco (ST) users, and two-thirds of dual cigarette-ST users did.  More importantly, only 3% of never, and 2% of former users were interested in buying the product.

In addition, we found that the likelihood of buying ZYN compared with other tobacco products was highest among exclusive ST users.  That cohort may be more inclined to buy ZYN because its manner of use is similar to that of other ST products, i.e., placing the product between the lip and gum; additionally, Swedish Match was offering the product on stores’ ST shelves.

The vast majority of ZYN users were white men, which is consistent with ST use. About 90% used the pouches every day, and most chose the 6 mg nicotine pouch, rather than the 3 mg version.  More than one-third had used ZYN about 3-6 months.

When offered a variety of reasons for using ZYN, participants frequently chose options such as “less harmful…”, “no one can tell when using”, and “to avoid spitting”.  Among current smokers, the top answers were, “less harmful for my health than cigarettes” and “do not cause me to smell like smoke/tobacco.”

There was no information about tobacco cessation due to ZYN, and time since quitting tobacco, so we cannot know if participants used ZYN to quit other products.  We also had no information about how frequently and how many pouches were used.

ZYN’s striking entry was quickly followed by similar products DRYFT ( and On! ( ).  None of these brands contain tobacco, only pharmaceutical-grade nicotine at different levels: ZYN pouches contain either 3 or 6 mg; On! is available in 2, 4 and 8 mg strengths; and DRYFT pouches have 2 or 7 mg. The highest nicotine dose approved by the FDA for medicinal nicotine gum and lozenges is 4 mg. Higher nicotine doses in the new pouch products may explain their popularity, since medicinal nicotine offerings have proven unsatisfying to consumers who can’t or don’t want to achieve nicotine abstinence.

Our study was the first to assess interest in and actual usage of a new tobacco product, ZYN nicotine pouches.  Non-users of tobacco had little interest, and ST users constituted the majority of ZYN regular users.