Increasingly popular oral nicotine pouches do little to curb smokers' cravings: Study
USA: The use of 6-mg or 3-mg nicotine concentration oral nicotine pouches (ONPs) did little to curb nicotine cravings in current smokers, a recent study published in the journal Addiction has revealed. ONPs are a tobacco-leaf-free product marketed as an alternative to cigarettes.
"Use of 6-mg nicotine concentration ONPs was tied to greater plasma nicotine delivery at 30 minutes than 3-mg ONPs or cigarettes, but neither ONP relieved craving symptoms at 5 minutes as strongly as a cigarette," the researchers wrote. They suggested that accelerating the speed of nicotine delivery in ONPs might raise their misuse liability relative to cigarettes.
Nicotine pouches are small pre-portioned bags filled with nicotine powder, flavourings, artificial sweeteners and other chemicals that extend shelf life. Marketed as a smoke-free, tobacco-free alternative to cigarettes, these products have become increasingly popular since entering the consumer market in 2016.
Lead author Brittney Keller-Hamilton, PhD, says these products are appealing to current smokers because they contain fewer known carcinogens and toxins than other tobacco products and can be used indoors where smoking is banned. Researchers are concerned, however, that if not formulated and regulated very intentionally, these products could result in an increase of nicotine product use among young people rather than reducing cancer risk among smokers.
For the current study, researchers evaluated whether nicotine pouches with different levels of nicotine concentration were more or less appealing to smokers.
They found that current smokers had a much greater spike of nicotine in their blood levels and much sharper relief from craving symptoms when smoking than when using both the low- and higher-dose nicotine pouches. That spike of nicotine measurable in the blood occurs about five minutes after smoking, explained Keller-Hamilton. With nicotine pouches, it is a much more gradual process like other smokeless tobacco products – and it typically takes 30 minutes to an hour to hit peak effectiveness – meaning that feeling of relief from craving symptoms. The same is true for the decline in nicotine levels – it is a much more gradual decline as well for oral pouches.
Because of this, she says, it is reasonable to see how the craving for instant gratification of cigarette smoking is more appealing than oral nicotine pouches for individuals who are already experiencing nicotine addiction.
“Our challenge is to approach regulation of nicotine pouches to limit their appeal among young people while making them more appealing to adult smokers who would see health benefits by switching from cigarettes – which have the most severe health impacts with long-term use – to nicotine pouches,” said Keller-Hamilton.
Study results and methods
For the current study, Keller-Hamilton’s team recruited 30 active adult smokers from Appalachian communities in Ohio, where both smoking and lung cancer rates are disproportionately higher than in the rest of the United States.
Study participants were observed during three sessions where they either smoked their usual brand of cigarette or used oral pouches containing three milligrams (mg) or six mg of nicotine. Blood samples were collected repeatedly during product use to measure changing plasma nicotine levels. Participants were also asked to complete questionnaires about nicotine cravings right before product use and again at five, 15, 30, 60 and 90 minutes after starting to use the product.
“Nicotine addiction is a very real problem for many people, and most current smokers express wanting to quit but often fail because it is so challenging to stop – and to make it stick long term,” said Keller-Hamilton. “For smokers trying to make a healthier choice or stop smoking cigarettes, they should talk with their healthcare providers or call their state’s quit line to find the best smoking cessation options for them.”
References: Brittney Keller-Hamilton, Mahmood A. Alalwan, Hayley Curran, Alice Hinton, Lauren Long, Kirsten Chrzan, Theodore L. Wagener, Leanne Atkinson, Sriya Suraapaneni, Darren Mays First published: 14 November 2023 https://doi.org/10.1111/add.16355
Dr Kamal Kant Kohli-MBBS, DTCD- a chest specialist with more than 30 years of practice and a flair for writing clinical articles, Dr Kamal Kant Kohli joined Medical Dialogues as a Chief Editor of Medical News. Besides writing articles, as an editor, he proofreads and verifies all the medical content published on Medical Dialogues including those coming from journals, studies,medical conferences,guidelines etc. Before Joining Medical Dialogues, he has served at important positions in the medical industry in India including as the Hony. Secretary of the Delhi Medical Association as well as the chairman of Anti-Quackery Committee in Delhi and worked with other Medical Councils in India. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact no. 011-43720751