Joseph Hart 23 August 2023


Hungary has informed the European Commission of its plans to regulate nicotine pouches. The EU state wants to amend Decree 39/2013 with a new draft tabled on the 8th of August. Let’s take a look at their proposal and see what it means for pouchers in the country.

Details of the new draft Decree

The new decree provides a pathway for the legal sale of nicotine pouches across Hungary. Here are the main points covered in the document.


The decree states that the maximum concentration per pouch must be no more than 17 mg and places five conditions on their sales.

Here are the five restrictions.

#1. Nicotine pouches may not contain any additives listed in Annex 4 of Decree 39/2013. The list includes 50+ items, such as honey, tea, and sugar. Here is the complete list:

#2. Nicotine pouches can’t include health supplements, vitamins, or other substances that promise to boost mental or physical health or reduce health risks.

#3. Pouches cannot contain caffeine, taurine, or other compounds associated with “perceived energy and vitality”. 

#4. Pouches cannot be augmented with additives that boost nicotine absorption or uptake.

#5. Pouches cannot contain carcinogenic, mutagenic, or reprotoxic (CMR) additives. Here is a quick primer on how these compounds are classified.


Other stipulations for the sale of nicotine pouches centre around warnings on product packaging. Again, there’s nothing too remarkable here. 
Packaging must contain:

• Health warnings must make up at least 30% of the surface area of the packaging
• Information on proper usage of the product
• Storage instructions
• Risk information for particular groups
• Toxicity information
• Contact details for the manufacturer, distributor, or importer.

Current EU ZoneX packaging

Health warning text amendments

The Decree also deals with e-cigarettes and recommends changing health warnings on the packaging. 
As things stand, the text states:

“This product contains nicotine which is highly addictive.”

The decree proposes an alteration to the following:

“This product contains nicotine, which harms your health and leads to addiction.”

This is not a subtle change. Stating that nicotine definitively harms your health is far outside the bounds of scientific consensus. With more data, and clean nicotine delivery systems (like nicotine pouches), we should get a better idea of nicotines’ effect on long-term health. For now, bodies like Cancer Research UK state nicotine does not cause cancer, with the Royal Society for Health suggesting the chemical is no more harmful than caffeine.  

The wording of the packaging is a missed opportunity. Products that contain nicotine exist on a continuum of harm, with nicotine pouches on the bottom. Informing the public about this data does not represent a tacit endorsement of the product. If anything, it could help encourage people to transition away from cigarettes.

Final thoughts

Viktor Orban’s government has a lot of problems on its hands. Inflation is stubbornly high at around 17% for July, down from a scarcely believable 25% at the turn of the new year. GDP figures for Q2 2023 are in, and the news is bleak. A 2.4% y-o-y contraction shows an economy that has been in recession for four quarters.

Orban is a polarising figure whose anti-immigration and Eurosceptic views have seen him labelled as a far-right autocrat and worse. After winning the 2022 election by a landslide, he’s in his fourth term. The next Hungarian election is scheduled for 2027, so while gloomy economic forecasts will hurt his credibility, we can’t expect significant changes to his ministerial cabinet just yet. So this approach to nicotine pouch regulation should stay constant.

When it comes to the crunch, Hungarian citizens were finding ways to access nicotine pouches. Regulating and legalising these harm-reduction products is sensible overall, even if the flavour ban and misleading health warnings are disappointing. With an above-average smoking prevalence rate, Hungary could do with encouraging its citizens to make better choices. This draft decree is a step in the right direction.