Could nicotine pouches help you quit smoking?

Posted on April 16, 2024 By Colin

NICOTINE POUCHES are becoming popular as safer nicotine alternatives to smoking tobacco in other countries. Are they legal in Australia? Are they safe? Where can you buy them? 

Nicotine pouches are small bags of nicotine (in various doses) that are placed between the upper lip and gum for about an hour, and steadily release nicotine. They do not contain tobacco and are used as a safer substitute for smoking. Vapers also use them to provide nicotine when it is not convenient to vape or when extra nicotine is needed.





Interview on GFN.News, April 2024

How are nicotine pouches regulated in Australia and do you need a prescription to purchase them?

In Australia, nicotine pouches are a prescription-only medicine, like vapes. There are two legal ways to legally purchase them

Most regular adult users import pouches from overseas websites. Some have prescriptions, but most don’t and some orders do get intercepted at the border.

There are only a small handful of GPs that prescribe them.

Are health authorities concerned about the illegal sale of nicotine pouches in Australia?

Pouches can also be purchased illegally from local retailers, tobacconists, Australian websites and on social media. There are reports of influencers promoting them online.

There are penalties of up to 5 years imprisonment and fines of up to $120,000 for illegal sales or advertising.

There has recently been a media frenzy mainly around the potential uptake of pouches by young people and fears that young people will be attracted to the flavours and become dependent on nicotine. However, there is no evidence of youth uptake sofar.

Nicotine pouches are marketed as tobacco-free and do not contain tobacco, so what are the health risks?

Pouches are very low risk products. They contain nicotine, plant fibre, sweeteners and flavourings. There is no tobacco and no combustion. There has not been much safety research, but we know that the risks from snus are very small and pouches are rated as even safer than snus and vapes.

If nicotine pouches are safer than combustible cigarettes, why does the Australian government want to ban them?

There are no plans to ban pouches at the moment, but their use is discouraged and access is restricted.

The policy on pouches reflects the abstinence-only ideology for nicotine in Australia, and particularly concerns about youth access.

Do we see any evidence that the use of nicotine pouches is on the rise in Australia?

There is a small group of regular adult users in Australia which is increasing. Google trends shows an increase in searches about them.

Almost all use is by adult smokers or former smokers as a quitting aid. They are also used by vapers as an alternative when vaping is inconvenient or as a way to cut down on vaping.

Is there any research exploring the relative risks of nicotine pouches in Australia?

There is no Australian research and very little overseas. However, experts have ranked pouches as substantially safer than smoking and even safer than vaping.

Pouches would be even less harmful than snus as they do not contain tobacco. With modern snus, there is no significant increase in cancers, cardiovascular or respiratory disease.

Do you think that nicotine pouches are going to become more and more popular across Australia, and are fears around their popularity with young people justified?

There will always be a market for pouches and the number of users is slowly increasing.

We know snus is an effective quitting aid and there is every reason to believe that pouches will also be effective as they give good nicotine delivery.

Pouches are more popular than snus in Australia. Snus does not need a prescription but it is very expensive. There is a tobacco tax of $2,000 per kg including GST, which is prohibitive for many users.

There is no evidence of youth use of pouches so far and I think the risk of any significant youth uptake is very unlikely, especially among non-smokers.

For more information

Grandolfo E. Tobacco-Free Nicotine Pouches and Their Potential Contribution to Tobacco Harm Reduction: A Scoping Review. Cureus 2024

Patwardan S, Fagerstrom K. The New Nicotine Pouch Category- A Tobacco Harm Reduction Tool. Nicotine Tobacco Research 2021 

Kozlowski LT. Nicotine Pouch Use is on the rise. ThinkGlobalHealth 2022

Facebook group: Snus Aficionado's Australia

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