Tuesday 23 February 2021

Nicotine pouches

The Observer has noticed nicotine pouches and it isn't happy.

Flashing an ice-white smile for her 50,000 followers on TikTok, a fresh-faced young woman pops a flavoured nicotine pouch into her mouth, as one of Pakistan’s most popular love songs plays in the background.

More than 3,000 miles away, in Sweden, another social media starlet lip-syncs for the camera, to a different pop tune. The same little pouches, made by British American Tobacco, appear in shot.

Critics say that such viral videos, even if they aren’t paid-for adverts, are the consequence of a global marketing push designed to offset dwindling cigarette consumption by recruiting the nicotine consumers of the future.

By that standard, I guess any social media post that shows a product counts. I don't know what the law is in Pakistan, but you can advertise snus in Sweden so I'm sure you can advertise a tobacco-free equivalent.

BAT makes much of how such products are helping adult smokers switch to less harmful alternatives, under the slogan “A Better Tomorrow”.

By 2023, the company expects to be targeting 500 million nicotine consumers with £100bn a year to spend. Products other than cigarettes are driving much of that growth.


Financial results released last week showed an annual pre-tax profit of £8.7bn as “non-combustible” products began contributing to earnings for the first time. The number of customers using them jumped by 3 million to 13.5 million, as the pandemic sparked a migration from cigarettes to more lung-friendly nicotine-delivery methods.


Happy days. It's a win-win for business, consumers and 'public health'. 

But not in Observer world...

However, such products are far from risk-free and the trend for promoting them via social media and popular influencers is causing concern.

Not just not risk-free, but far from risk-free! So what, exactly, are the risks? Alas, the lengthy article never gets round to saying. Nor does it get round to naming the 'critics' who are 'concerned' about this, except someone from an organisation called Corporate Accountability which seems to be against big businesses in general.
The Observer article is based on an article from the 'Bureau of Investigative Journalism', the organisation that famously got Newsnight in a lot of trouble over Lord McAlpine and which is now funded by Mike Bloomberg to write anti-vaping pieces and be generally negative about tobacco harm reduction. It finds a critic from within 'public health', but it's just the corpulent know-nothing Martin McKee whose opinion is worthless.

The gist of it is that BAT markets its nicotine pouches and people under the age of 18 might try to buy them.

Lyft has no tobacco in it but does contain nicotine, making it an over-18s product. Yet multiple TikTok videos feature Swedes who appear to be of school age using them.
Do they, aye?

In Spain, a campaign for BAT’s heated tobacco product Glo has been fronted by boy band Dvicio, via Instagram and a series of concerts. The “boys” are all in their late 20s or early 30s, but were last year’s summer cover stars for tween magazine Like
This is lame stuff and BAT have responded with some fairly obvious points.

"Our social media accounts are age-gated so they are only visible to those users who have confirmed that they are 18+ (or other applicable minimum age),” it said.

The company added it was essential it marketed “reduced-risk” products so smokers were aware of them.

To be clear, these are good products. If anything, they should be advertised more. Everyone knows what cigarettes are but I bet most smokers are unaware of nicotine pouches. They are not 'far from risk-free'. They are as risk-free as nicotine patches, the only 'risk' being a caffeine-level increase in heart rate, as far as I can tell. They can't be sold to children and if adults want to buy them, that is up to them. End of story.

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