Nicotine Pouches at The Global Forum on Nicotine 2023 (GFN23)
This year on the 21st to 24th of June in Warsaw, Poland was the 10th annual Global Forum on Nicotine – an event focused on the science, technology, regulation, and consumer issues relating to tobacco harm reduction.
The event brings together consumers, scientists, regulators, manufacturers and distributors, health professionals, advocacy groups and more to discuss and share knowledge around the increasingly broad and important topic of tobacco harm reduction.
You can find out more about the Global Forum for Nicotine here – https://gfn.events
I attended the event for the first time this year and it was fantastic to hear a range of views and topics discussed by experts and advocates from across the world – but I was particularly interested to see how my favorite product – nicotine pouches – featured at an international event. I wasn’t disappointed. It could have been called the Global Pouch Forum 2023!
Held on the second day of the event was the 5th International Symposium on Nicotine Technology (https://isontech.info) – a science and technology-focused event looking at innovation in the tobacco harm reduction market. The event opened with no less than three back-to-back talks from industry leaders focusing on the research, development, and scientific assessment of nicotine pouches.
You can see the full ISoNTech program for 2023 here – https://isontech.info/events/2023/
Below is my take on the 3 events focusing on my area of interest – nicotine pouches.
INNOVATION OF REDUCED RISK ALTERNATIVES: ORAL TOBACCO AND NICOTINE PRODUCTS
PMI Science – Philip Morris International
Reduction Risk Products
Oral Smokeless Category
The afternoon began with a presentation from Nazan Gunduv – program leader for oral smokeless tobacco at Philip Morris International. Nazan has 20 years of experience in the industry and holds an MSc in Polymer Chemistry and a Ph.D. in Polymer Science and Engineering.
Her presentation provided a great introduction to the product – detailing everything from the basics of the product design, details of its chemical and physical characterization, and the results of nicotine pouch specific research and trials.
Whilst I must confess some of the more complex chemistry was beyond me – PMI science was able to clearly articulate the details of what a nicotine pouch is (something far too many people are unaware of), details of its chemical makeup (and the high standards to which PMI produced their products) and the influencing factors around nicotine uptake with a detailed look at pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics.
The most interesting takeaway from me was the confidence I was left with around product standards. Questions I often find myself asking around things like nicotine strength and product pH were answered – limits had been put in place and the proper scientific method was used to look at the results. A far cry from some of the extremely strong and likely poorly manufactured products I’ve come across over the years.
Transparency, safety, and product education are paramount for acceptance – so it was great to see this covered in such detail by a leading business in the industry.
NICOTINE POUCHES: THE FUTURE OF ORAL NICOTINE PRODUCTS
Brian E. Erkkila
Director Regulatory Science
Swedish Match North America
The second of the day’s talks came from Brian Erkkila – director of regulatory science at Swedish Match North America. Trained in neuroscience he has a strong background in public health.
Brian’s talk was very much a case study of the ‘ZYN’ branded nicotine pouches in the United States (with a focus on the Western regions). The talk covered details on product chemistry, toxicology, product perceptions, and user behavior.
Echoing the presentation prior – surprise surprise – nicotine pouches have at least 99% lower levels of harmful and potentially harmful constituents (HPHCs) compared to a cigarette.
There were two main figures from Brian’s presentation that jumped out at me –
Firstly – from a study of 1305 people introduced to the ZYN nicotine pouches – over 50% decreased their smoking rates. This isn’t a silver bullet solution (nothing is) – but to see such a high rate from users newly introduced to the product was impressive and certainly mirrors my own experience.
Secondly – a look at results from a 2022 national youth tobacco survey taken in the US. This looked at the past 30-day use of middle and high school children in the states. Whilst vaping sat at 14th – nicotine pouches were just above 1% – similar on par with heated tobacco products. This for me was a great backup to certainly my perception – that nicotine pouches aren’t a product with a worrying youth appeal.
THE HARM REDUCTION OPPORTUNITY OF MODERN ORAL TOBACCO PRODUCTS
Dr. Mohamadi Sarkar
Scientific Strategy & Regulatory Affairs
Altria Client Services
The final nicotine pouch specific talk of the day was from Dr. Mohamadi Sarkar – who I was also able to catch up with for a chat later in the day and talk more about the subject of his presentation – a look at the ‘on!’ brand nicotine pouches.
Dr. Sarkar covered the scientific data demonstrating the safety standards of the product, and the importance of options such as strength and flavor in getting smokers to switch and he also stressed the need for providing clear information about the relative risk of combustible and smoke-free products.
I found Altria’s research data looking at reasons why users would continue to use nicotine pouch products in the future the most interesting.
This helped to reinforce some of my views. When it came to harm reduction – 49% of users said they would look to use the product to reduce or smoke their smoking habit. Looking at flavors – 57% stated they’d come back to the product as it had a flavor they like. As for strength – 52% of respondents stated they were able to satisfy their nicotine cravings.
So based on this data, we can see nicotine pouches can offer a great way to get people to stop or reduce smoking, flavors are very important in helping users make that switch and when they do so – nicotine levels must be sufficient to satisfy their usual cravings.
Altria also cited the 1.1% 30-day usage figure from the 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey.
This is the type of science we want regulators around the world to see.
All three speakers looking at nicotine pouches demonstrated the relative safety of the product compared to traditional cigarettes, showed their efficacy with regard to satisfying consumers, and had solid research to support this.
As a nicotine pouch user, it was great to see such a focus placed on a product I often feel loses some of the limelight to vaping – and given their unregulated status in the UK – it was encouraging to see that whilst governments might be ignoring the issue – responsible manufacturers are looking closely at the science to ensure a safe product.
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