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Pantherette

The Student News Site of Paschal High School

Pantherette

The Student News Site of Paschal High School

Pantherette

Zyndemic: The New Wave of Teen Nicotine Addiction

For thousands of addicted teenagers, Zyns are the new favorite form of nicotine. As more young people are ditching their vapes and using these flavored pouches as a healthier alternative, experts warn that the harms of nicotine-concentrated Zyns may put users at risk of chronic addiction and oral health degradation.
Menthol-flavored+Zyns+are+pictured+in+the+hand+of+the+user+and+shared+by+another.+
Maya Perez
Menthol-flavored Zyns are pictured in the hand of the user and shared by another.

There is a rise in nicotine dependency among teenagers. It’s something we have been warned about countless times through our schools, our parents, or the anti-vaping ads across the US. We know it all too well. “Vaping is bad for your lungs, Nicotine is a gateway drug, and inhaling anything but oxygen is dangerous!” What if there was a way to get that same buzz without the vapor? Would that be safe? Some teens think a new product called “Zyn” is the solution.

“I like Zyn because it gives me a good nicotine buzz without the smoke, such as vaping. It’s easy and discreet to use and comes in lots of different flavors”, one student said anonymously. 

What is Zyn?

Zyn is a small nicotine pouch that comes like a pack of mints. When users place the pouch in between their upper lip and gums, the nicotine seeps into their body and causes a buzz. Zyns come in several different flavors, ranging from Spearmint to Citrus. Other names for Zyn include “upper,” “lip pillow,” and “Zynbabwe.”

Zyn has become a phenomenon for Gen-Z. I recall seeing a TikTok where someone had completely padded their bedroom walls with empty Zyn containers. Another viral TikTok joked about having a Zyn in your mouth when you kiss someone so they become addicted to you. Most people in college and high school are probably familiar with Zyn. Interestingly, when I bring Zyn up to adults, they are mostly clueless. So, are we experiencing a continuation of the vape craze of past years, or are we moving towards a new and possibly safer form of nicotine use?

I have several peers who are avid Zyn consumers, and I reached out to them to get a better understanding of the nicotine pouches’ appeal.

Another Paschal student added,

“I only recently started doing Zyn and quickly came to like it. I think what’s appealing is that I can get a good nic buzz without damaging my lungs with a vape. I also like how secretive it is; since you put it in your lip, no one would know you have it. The variety of flavors makes it fun because there are plenty of options depending on your mood; my go-to is always spearmint.”

Zyns and other oral nicotine products are on display behind the register on the Walgreens shelf on Hulen. (Penelope Maddox)

So, it is clear that one of the hallmarks of Zyn use is that it is an alternative source of nicotine that does not affect your lungs. However, that does not change the effects that nicotine itself has on developing brains. Nicotine can stunt the formation of brain circuits that control attention, learning, and susceptibility to addiction. 

Often, people who are addicted to vaping and are looking to quit seek out Zyns. When you quit vaping, the withdrawal symptoms can be painful and hard to get through, many times leading the person back to vaping. The Zyn pouch helps curb those cravings and symptoms by offering a buzz and not affecting your lungs. This is why many people use Zyn. One Paschal student shared their story with me.

“The reason I originally started doing Zyns was to quit vaping. At first, it helped, but then I started to do both. My nicotine addiction is something I have struggled with for a while. I thought Zyns would help, but they didn’t. It makes me think about why I started in the first place. I started vaping because my friends thought it was cool, but now I am stuck with an addiction I can’t seem to get rid of. Zyns do help, but they are currently only adding to my addiction because I cannot seem to quit.” 

No form of nicotine is safer than no nicotine at all, so while Zyn may seem like it is a way of quitting, we need to recognize that it is just as addictive as a vape. The mean concentration of nicotine per vape puff is between 0.049 mg and 0.053 mg. A single pouch of Zyn contains much more at 3 to 6 mg. Taking nicotine in higher doses is more likely to cause addiction and also make it harder to quit.

Because many users consider Zyn products to be healthier alternatives to vaping or cigarette use, the negative and largely unknown implications of long-term usage are under-discussed and left unconsidered by teens. Not only does nicotine affect the brain and respiratory system, but it also affects the hormones that play a role in muscle growth. But most of all, nicotine pouches pose uniquely damaging health implications for oral health and hygiene.

To inquire about Zyn products’ harm to gum health, the Pantherette spoke to Fort Worth-based Periodontist Dr. Steven K. Britain. 

Image of Dr. Steven K. Britain, gum disease specialist and Diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology (https://www.britainperio.com/our-team/dr-steven-k-britain/).

“Nicotine pouches promote youth-appealing flavors and the convenience of using these products anywhere. These types of products increase the risk of dual or poly-tobacco products among young adults. Since these products are relatively new, we don’t have much data yet on their effects on the oral cavity. As a result, the American Dental Association (ADA) has not come out with a statement regarding ZYN-type products specifically.”

Dr. Britain notes that while the American Dental Association does not have enough long-term data to issue a statement on nicotine pouches specifically, experts strongly caution against usage. 

“Nicotine interacts with the body’s cells to affect the immune system and may directly or indirectly deteriorate periodontal (gum) tissues. The carcinogenic effects of smokeless tobacco products are not applicable as these are not present in nicotine-only pouches – however, nicotine is still addictive. Relatively minor side effects are well-documented and include mouth and throat soreness, mouth ulcers, hiccups, and coughing. Gum recession may also result.”

Picture of patient with gum recession, which may occur from chronic use of oral nicotine products like Zyns https://medicalorthodontics.org/receding-gums/).

Unfortunately, the culture we live in does not seem to be anywhere close to saying goodbye to nicotine products. Teenage vape usage has increased 1,800% over the last year. Since older generations are less aware of what Zyn is, it would make sense that the tobacco industry is targeting our generation. There is yet to be a way of knowing the long-term effects, but we are essentially being used as guinea pigs. Only time will tell.

 

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About the Contributors
Mason Lawrence, Reporter
Mason Lawrence (12) is a reporter for the Pantherette. This is his first year on staff and he is excited to contribute stories related to pop culture and the Fort Worth social scene. He has dreams of moving to LA and becoming a creative director. He loves to swim, talk men's fashion, and tour different restaurants.
Penelope Maddox, Editor
Penelope Maddox (12) is a co-editor for the online and printed Paschal Pantherette. This is her second year on staff and she is eager to focus on the behind-the-scenes aspect of running an online paper. She is an avid reader who loves chai lattes, overalls, and linguistics.
Maya Perez, Editor
Maya Perez (12) is a co-editor and reporter for the Pantherette. This is her second year on newspaper staff, and she hopes to write more current event content. Besides newspaper writing, she spends her time leading Paschal JSA and Feminist Club.
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