Zyn, a popular brand of nicotine pouches produced by global tobacco and cigarette giant Philip Morris, has been at the center of controversies and last month the company banned its online sales in the US after its subsidiary, Swedish Match North America (SMNA), received a subpoena from the Attorney General of the District of Columbia.

However, Zyn’s troubles have been a boon for its competitors who are making the most of the online sales ban. Meanwhile, there is also a political slugfest over Zyn and while Democratic lawmakers have cracked down on Zyn, conservative groups have launched a campaign against the crackdown.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 2.1% of US adults use smokeless tobacco products, but it does not provide a breakup for nicotine pouches. No wonder these products are a key growth area for tobacco giants. Smoke-free products made up 39% of Philip Morris’ revenues in Q1 2024.

Zyn, in particular, is quite popular in the US, and even before the online ban there was a shortage of the product with social media users jokingly terming it as “Zyndemic” or “The Great Zynpression.”


While there is a shortage of Zyn, there is no shortage of brands other than Zyn which include Velo, made by British American Tobacco, On!, made by Altria Group, and Rogue from Swisher International Group.

New Oral Nicotine Brand Pop Up

Meanwhile, after the ban on online sales of Zyn, other brands selling oral nicotine pouches are trying to capitalize on the opportunity. Also, a lot of these pouches are being shipped from China which is similar to what we saw with the crackdown on flavored vapes (namely Juuls). Instead of quitting nicotine, it seems like they just found new vessels, whether it be cheap chinese vapes, Zyn, or even real cigarettes.

The explosion in sales of illegal vapes, which mostly come from China, prompted Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) to send a letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf calling upon the agency to act against these.

In his letter, Rubio said that while legit vaping companies spent millions and waited years for product approvals, Chinese companies were able to send “shipping containers full of illegal e-cigarettes into our country every day, right under the nose of the FDA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.”

It seems like lawmakers are going after a similar strategy with Zyn, despite the fact that the Juul ban didn’t seem to work and may have even hurt people indirectly.

Chinese Companies Capitalize on Zyn Ban

There are fears that Chinese companies could fill the void left by the ban on online sales of Zyn. Steven Callahan, a managing director at Altria who leads the company’s enforcement efforts said, “The same way you’ve noticed a growth in illicit vape devices you’ve seen a growth in oral nicotine pouches.”

Notably, several companies – including some from China – showcased their products at the Alternative Products Expo trade show last month in Houston. Among them was China-based tobacco materials maker Granch Biopack which soon plans to launch brands like “Zombie Nic” and “Pure Zyn” in the US.

The names sound too similar to “Zyn” and William Chaw, Granch Biopack’s project manager said, “We are selling more since Zyn has been selling out.”

There are concerns that imitators might capitalize on Zyn’s shortage and online sales ban. While this would mean a loss of sales for Philip Morris, it won’t solve the FDA’s fight against illegal sales of oral nicotine products or help those addicted to nicotine.

Despite all the furor over Zyn, it would be fair to say that the product was still better regulated than imitating brands from China who are just trying to capitalize on Zyn’s regulatory woes by launching similar-sounding brands.

Lawmakers Have a Nuanced Opinion about Zyn and Cannabis

Meanwhile, lawmakers have quite a nuanced opinion when it comes to nicotine products and cannabis. The Obama administration rejected an FDA proposal to ban kid-friendly (flavored) e-cigarettes in 2016. The Democrats have also been pushing for a federal legalization of marijuana in the US and reintroduced legalization to that effect in the Senate in May. The Biden administration also requested that the DEA reschedule the drug to a lower class, effectively decriminalizing it (to a degree), but it has yet to acquiesce.

However, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who previously fought for tobacco regulations and e-cigarette bans in schools, now sees Zyn as his next battleground and has called for federal action against the popular product.

Terming Zyn a “pouch packed with problems”, Schumer said earlier this year, “I’m delivering a warning to parents because these nicotine pouches seem to lock their sights on young kids—teenagers, and even lower—and then use the social media to hook them.”

Conservatives also have a nuanced view of nicotine (mostly from a pro-business, anti-regulation mindset) and Donald Trump banned some flavored vapes. Republicans have also rallied against marijuana legalization in the US for decades, though they don’t focus on it as much as their stance is generally unpopular with the public.

However, countering the Democrat crackdown on Zyn are two conservative groups – Americans for Consumer Protection and Building America’s Future – that have launched a campaign calling on lawmakers to “Save Our Pouches.”

Nicotine Pouches Help Quit Smoking

“Nicotine pouches have been found to help adult smokers transition ‘to safer alternatives.’ Sweden has virtually eradicated usage of traditional cigarettes by ‘enabling this transition to safer alternatives’ and the country’s openness to allow the sale of smoke-free alternatives (like nicotine pouches) to cigarettes,” they said in their release.

Right-wing influencer Tucker Carlson has also backed nicotine products like Zyn and called out liberals for opposing them while pushing for marijuana legalization.

Notably, nicotine products were intended to help people quit smoking. However, many reports show that children and teens below the legally mandated age of 21 are also using the addictive product regularly. Also, many Zyn consumers were not smoking before they started using it and some were pushed into the product through social media accounts promoting the product.

It’s also important to note that Zyns, like all nicotine products, are extremely addictive and often have serious potential side effects like cardiovascular problems.

Overall, while nicotine products like Zyn were supposed to be a “lesser evil” and help people quit smoking, they seem to be creating a new problem by leading to nicotine addiction among youngsters, including those who don’t otherwise smoke.

However, while the crackdown on Zyn might have all the right intentions, so far it seems it is only helping fuel the sales of imitating products prompting many to draw parallels with e-cigarettes where the crackdown on Juul only led to a flurry of competing brands.

Would it be different with Zyn this time? We’ll have to wait and see.