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What are Zyns and are they legal in Australia?

“I’ve got a friend who’s trying to quit vaping and he’s now using a product called ‘Zyn’. He says they’re nicotine and they help him with his cravings when he really feels he needs to vape. What are Zyns and are they legal in Australia?”

‘Zyn’ is a brand name for a relatively new product that appears to be gaining popularity across parts of the world – oral nicotine pouches. With cigarette smoking becoming less popular, tobacco companies have moved into producing and marketing what are now referred to as ‘smokeless’ tobacco products.

Looking like small tea bags, these small sachets are usually placed in the mouth, between the upper lip and gum, providing the person with a ‘nicotine hit’. A similar product known as ‘snus’ has been around for a while, with those pouches supplying the nicotine via shredded tobacco leaf. What makes these new products different is that instead of containing oral tobacco, which has been banned from sale in Australia since the early 1990s, these use synthetic ‘tobacco-free’ nicotine. This powder is produced in a laboratory and due to this change the manufacturers claim that they can be legally used in this country.

Like e-cigarettes (or vapes), these pouches were originally developed to be nicotine replacement products, similar to patches and gum, helping people to quit or reduce their smoking. Unfortunately, what we have seen here and around the world, is that young people, many of whom have never smoked a cigarette, have started vaping. Although the manufacturers of brands such as Zyn claim their products are marketed as an “alternative to smoking for people who are already consuming nicotine”, due to their packaging and the fact that they come in a range of flavours such as ‘apple mint’ and ‘black cherry’, they have been criticized for making them attractive to young people. It’s also important to note that the nicotine concentrations of the different brands can vary greatly, with some containing much higher levels than cigarettes.

The law in this area is extremely complicated, although it is clear that smokeless tobacco products that contain tobacco are banned from sale in Australia. People are able to import them for personal use but that is dependent on the weight of the product being brought into the country. It’s unclear as to where brands such as Zyn, that are so-called ‘tobacco-free’, fit as far as the law is concerned. Unfortunately, the manufacturers are certainly using this lack of clarity to promote their product.

First published: April 2024

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