Joseph Hart 23 October 2023


It’s fair to say that the Canadian government has become little more than a punchline over the last few years. The country has long been known as a bastion of peace and tolerance. However, when Justin Trudeau froze the bank accounts of COVID lockdown protestors by using the Wartime Emergencies Act, it was clear he was losing his grip on the country and touch with reality.

But it gets worse. This September’s honouring of a former Nazi trooper in the Canadian Parliament was, in the words of the Conservative Party’s Pierre Poilievre, the “biggest single diplomatic embarrassment” in the country’s history. 

Factor in escalating public debt, a massive cost of living crisis, and serious allegations of corruption and ethics violations, and it’s clear to see that Trudeau’s Liberal Party is making a mockery of his father’s legacy.

The good news is that even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Canada has made a big step towards embracing sensible harm reduction policies by approving its first nicotine pouch.

What is ZONNIC?

British American Tobacco (BAT) formed Nicoventures Trading in 2010. The tobacco giant says that the startup is a standalone company that focuses “exclusively on the development and commercialisation of innovative regulatory approved nicotine products.”

One of these products is a nicotine pouch called ZONNIC. Health Canada has granted approval for the pouches to be sold in Canada by the BAT subsidiary Imperial Tobacco Canada (ITCAN) as a Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT).

It’s the first time that Health Canada has authorised any nicotine pouches. Frank Silva, ITCAN’s CEO and President, said, “We all agree smoking is the cause of serious diseases, and we are committed to reducing the health impact of our business. The addition of ZONNIC to our product portfolio is the next step in this journey’’.

The ZONNIC pouches contain 4mg of nicotine. These strengths meant the product could be approved under Canada’s Natural Health Products Regulations. This relatively low strength was an essential factor in their approval. Anything more and the pouches would require approval under Canada’s Food and Drug Act Regulations.

Why the sudden change?

In 2020, Health Canada cautioned the Canadian public about using nicotine pouches, suggesting they “may pose serious health risks”. However, it seems they have changed their tune. 

Health Canada can approve NRT products for sale without prescription if they are provided research which demonstrates the efficacy and safety of products. Nicoventures satisfied this criterion and provided a pharmacokinetics study that proved the substantial bioavailability of ZONNIC compared to other NRTs.

What this approval means for Canada

According to the most recent data, Canada has a smoking prevalence rate of around 13%. However, further research suggests that daily smokers could be as low as 8%. Approving these harm-reduction products could help the country hit its smoke-free target of 5% well before the outlined date of 2035. 

It would be a fantastic achievement for Canada to follow the path of Sweden and become smoke-free ahead of schedule.

Final thoughts

Canada has taken a sensible step by approving products that can make a difference in the lives of its citizens. Less than 25 years ago, smoking prevalence in Canada was 28%. The number has more than halved over a few decades. However, the decline in smoking has plateaued since 2018.

Adopting sensible tobacco control regulations and approving nicotine pouches could provide the final push that Canada needs to hit smoke-free targets of 5% way ahead of schedule. 

It’s high time for this beautiful country to commit to its progressive ideals and lead the way on the international stage by showing what happens when you truly “follow the science”.