The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

Through classes, art teachers aim to grow art appreciation

Students use Zyn nicotine products, despite discouragement

Zyn+pouches+are+oral+nicotine+products+that+users+put+under+their+upper+lip%2C+visually+concealing+them.+They+come+in+flavors+ranging+from+citrus+to+coffee.+In+Illinois%2C+a+person+must+be+21+to+purchase+any+tobacco+or+nicotine+products.+All+flavored+liquid+nicotine+products+are+illegal+in+Cook+County.+However%2C+Zyn+patches+are+not+liquid+until+moistened+in+the+user%E2%80%99s+mouth.
Ryan Burke-Stevenson
Zyn pouches are oral nicotine products that users put under their upper lip, visually concealing them. They come in flavors ranging from citrus to coffee. In Illinois, a person must be 21 to purchase any tobacco or nicotine products. All flavored liquid nicotine products are illegal in Cook County. However, Zyn patches are not liquid until moistened in the user’s mouth.

Editor’s note: Students spoke to the Midway on the condition of anonymity due to age restrictions for the products mentioned. Both students are at U-High.

Convenient. Discrete. Potentially healthier. It was these three characteristics on Quora, an online question-and-answer platform, that caused Student A to give Zyn pouches a try. Student A now uses the product regularly. 

Zyn pouches are oral nicotine products that users put under their upper lip, visually concealing them. They come in flavors ranging from citrus to coffee. In Illinois, a person must be 21 to purchase any tobacco or nicotine products. All flavored liquid nicotine products are illegal in Cook County. However, Zyn patches are not liquid until moistened in the user’s mouth.

Invented in Sweden, the pouches were first introduced to the U.S. market in 2014 but have become more popular since, garnering millions of views on social media with the help of “Zynfluencers.” 

“I heard some of my friends were doing them, and it’s also a big thing online,” Student A said. “There is a stereotype that frat guys are doing these Zyns. This kind of thing got introduced in my friend group and people I know.”

Zyn pouches are filled with tobacco-free and synthetic nicotine in the form of white powder, unlike their oral pouch counterpart, snus, which contains shredded tobacco. It is because of this that Zyn pouches are marketed as being a “healthier” alternative to traditional tobacco products.

Elizabeth Crespi, a researcher at the Institute for Global Tobacco Control at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said such marketing claims are questionable.

 “To come up with a more concrete answer requires time to conduct studies and understand long-term effects,” Dr. Crespi said in an interview with the Midway. “It becomes really hard for us to say too much because if you do not have people who have been using them for 20 or 30 years, you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future.”

However, she said there might be some legitimacy to the claims because Zyn pouches are not combustible, which may eliminate harmful toxicants that traditional tobacco products contain. 

“In general, nicotine is not known to create cancer,” she said. “So you don’t have the same level of harm as with a tobacco product with other additives and such.”

Student A said the pouches are convenient because they are not visible to those around them. 

“It is like doing drugs in class, but you can get away with it,” Student A said. “It’s a lot more casual.”

Like Student A, Student B, who has tried Zyn pouches two times, said they first heard of them on social media at the beginning of this school year. 

“I didn’t really enjoy it,” Student B said. “It felt like you had a really bad headache, almost like a migraine.”

Student B said they use Zyn pouches because it does not require inhalation.

“There is this stigma that a cigarette is much worse than putting a little pouch in your mouth, so people see them as less harmless than the alternatives like vaping,” he said. 

Both students said Zyn pouch use has spread in their social circle. 

Dr. Crespi said Zyn pouches and others like them should not be marketed and made accessible to youth and people who are not already using tobacco and nicotine products because, no matter what, people shouldn’t use them.

Pete Miller, a Lab P.E. teacher who teaches health class to ninth and 10th graders, said he tries to incorporate newer products and their consequences in the curriculum. Mr. Miller said he has not addressed Zyn pouches yet, but he hopes to in the future.     

“Every time there is a new drug or variation of the kind,” he said, “I always like to address that added risk because we don’t know the effects of the product down the line.”

While Student A is happy to have found a way to discreetly consume nicotine with Zyn pouches, he recognizes their highly addictive nature and said he does not encourage others to try them.

“As researchers, it’s important to stay open-minded and see if they are better comparably to other products,” Dr. Crespi said. “But at the same time, we must caution our younger populations about the dangers of products like Zyn pouches.”

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About the Contributors
Audrey Park, Editor-in-Chief
Audrey Park is a member of the Class of 2024 and serves as an editor-in-chief. She began writing for the Midway in the 2020-21 school year when she was in ninth grade. Her favorite story she has written is about University of Chicago nurses seeking solutions for the uninsured. She loves journalism because of its ability to represent and reflect multiple perspectives. Audrey also enjoys reading, traveling and playing card games. Awards: 2023 Journalism Education Association National Student Media Contests, San Francisco convention: Honorable mention, online package 2023 Scholastic Press Association of Chicago, news story: excellent 2022 Journalism Education Association National Student Media Contests, St. Louis convention: Honorable mention, editorial writing 2022 Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Circle Award: First place, sidebar writing, “Misinformation solutions rely on regulation, media literacy”
Ryan Burke-Stevenson, Photographer
Ryan Burke-Stevenson is a photojournalist and a member of the Class of 2025. His favorite part of photojournalism is being able to give a visual aspect to stories. Outside of photojournalism, Ryan is interested in cooking and cycling.

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