There’s a new trend with teens, especially among those who have tried smoking or vaping: New fruity nicotine gums, tablets, pouches, and lozenges. Popular brands among teens include products from Zyn, Lucy, Rogue, Velo, Solace, On!, and Juice Head. These products may be small, but they pack an addictive nicotine punch. When powerful nicotine is mixed with fruity flavors, flashy marketing, and bright packaging, it’s no wonder kids fall prey.
Doesn’t this all sound familiar? Youth-friendly marketing and discreet delivery of highly-concentrated nicotine is what finally landed the tobacco and vaping industry in hot water earlier this year. These fruity nicotine products are also very inexpensive when compared to vaping products – generally under $6.00 – and teens see them as “less harmful” because they’re “tobacco-free.” These claims falsely imply these products are healthier and safer than vaping or smoking, when in reality the real threat to our youth is in the highly-concentrated nicotine contained in these new products.
The FDA is also fighting to keep products like nicotine gummies off the shelves and out of the hands of kids. The FDA shut down Krave gummies just this week because the company that makes them didn’t first apply for FDA authorization, making them illegal to sell. So far, they have been discontinued and there seems to be no other nicotine gummy products online. About a month ago, FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf warned that, “Nicotine gummies are a public health crisis just waiting to happen among our nation’s youth.”
When it comes to teens, addiction experts and prevention researchers agree: “Exposure to nicotine can interfere with healthy brain development among teens, worsen mood disorders and mental health problems, and affect their ability to learn and pay attention…It also puts them at increased risk of addiction to other substances, as well as other products containing nicotine.”
Even though traditional gums and lozenges already exist to help adults quit smoking, these new oral products seem to be targeting youth to get them hooked early. The marketing is everywhere, as Truth Initiative has pointed out: “Researchers estimated that 38 million pieces of oral nicotine direct mail were sent to U.S. consumers between March 2018 and August 2020 for Velo (RJ Reynolds) and On! (Altria) nicotine pouches and Revel lozenges (RJ Reynolds).”
We know that most kids choose not to vape or smoke, and most will refuse products like these if they’re offered. We also know that adult support and conversations really help when the pressure mounts and the offer for teens to “try it,” is there.
As adults, we can help youth by:
- Having conversations about our nicotine-free expectations early and often, including cigarettes, vaping, and these products.
- Warning kids and teens of the risks of using nicotine while they’re brain is still developing, including harm to their brains and lifelong addiction (learn more on our Vaping page).
- Helping them gain confidence by practicing saying “no” to their peers when offered a nicotine product.
- Reminding our kids they can come to us for help with peer pressure, stress, or anxiety.
By Parent Up KC Staff