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Despite the harm, young people use nicotine sachets. Experts say it gives them déjà vu | Radio-Canada

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The dose8:56 p.m.What should I know about recreational nicotine products?

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They come in brightly colored boxes with flavors like tropical breeze and berry frost, and in most of the country they are sold in convenience stores. If you don’t look closely, you might mistake them for chewing gum or candy.

Nicotine pouches, under the Zonnic brand, are the latest nicotine product approved for sale in Canada. Earlier in March, Health Minister Mark Holland sworn to crack down on their sale to young people.

Although the product claims it is nicotine replacement therapy and is not intended for those under 18, experts say young people are becoming their main market, which raises troubling questions about how young people’s health could be affected.

Health Canada approved Zonnic last July as a smoking cessation aid under the national natural health product regulations, without any restrictions on how it is advertised, where it is sold or at what age someone can take it. ‘buy.

“If they could reach the counter, a toddler could walk up there and buy some,” said David Hammond, a public health professor at the University of Waterloo who conducts research on tobacco control.

An advertisement for Zonnic, a flavored nicotine sachet, sits on the counter of a Canadian convenience store, next to candy.
An advertisement for Zonnic on the counter of a Canadian convenience store next to candy. The company that sells Zonnic, Imperial Tobacco, says it has removed parts of its advertising campaign featuring young people and placed the 18 and over label more clearly on its packaging. (Canadian Cancer Society)

Pouches can cause a host of health problems among young people, experts say, and the current lack of regulation is creating a sense of deja vu among those who study tobacco control, including Laura Struik, an assistant professor at the school. of Nursing at UBC. Okanagan.

“The tobacco industry is very good at offering kid-friendly nicotine cessation products – and these nicotine pouches are no exception,” Struik said.

Quebec and British Columbia changed regulations nicotine sachets can therefore only be sold at pharmacy counters, and Health Canada announced it will explore regulatory options to protect young people.

What are the health concerns?

Zonnic sachets – small bags filled with nicotine powder that users place against their gums – contain up to four milligrams of nicotine.

They’re often sold in packs of 10, which is roughly the amount of nicotine in a pack of cigarettes, Dr. Nicholas Chadi told CBC show host Dr. Brian Goldman. The dose.

David Hammond, professor of public health at the University of Waterloo and a leading Canadian researcher on youth vaping, is seen at the University of Waterloo on April 27, 2023 in Waterloo, Ontario.
David Hammond, a professor of public health at the University of Waterloo, says the original marketing campaign for nicotine pouches was very similar to that for e-cigarettes several years ago. (Turgut Yeter/CBC)

“You can become dependent on nicotine after only a few days or weeks of use if you are young,” explains Chadi, pediatrician and researcher at CHU Sainte-Justine in Montreal, specializing in adolescent medicine and drug addiction.

“Your brain is a little more vulnerable to the effects of different substances.”

The effect of nicotine on the brain

There is more and more research on how nicotine affects brain developmentsaid Chadi, which includes impacts on memory, emotional regulation and sleep.

“More and more studies show that young people who use nicotine may also be more susceptible have mental health problems” said Chadi.

A man in a blue shirt smiles at the camera.
Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances there is, says Dr. Nicholas Chadi, pediatrician and researcher at CHU Sainte-Justine in Montreal, specializing in adolescent medicine and addictions. (CHU Sainte-Justine (Véronique Lavoie))

Nicotine can limit impulse control and inhibit cognitive processing and decision-making, Struik said.

“It not only changes the way your brain communicates, but (early use) also increases the addictive potential of nicotine,” she said.

The younger a person starts using nicotine, the harder it is to quit, Struik said.

Oral health and cancer problems

There are also concerns about the health of users’ gums, experts say.

“When you use these sachets, you inflame your gums and oral cavities,” Struik said.

“This can lead to a whole series of risks: mouth cancers, throat cancers.”

The sachets contain other ingredients that haven’t been tested for effectiveness, Chadi said, so it’s unclear whether they could have potential negative health effects.

“We really know very little about these new synthetic nicotine products,” Chadi said.

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Some pouches contain tobacco-specific nitrosaminessaid Struik, carcinogens found in tobacco and tobacco smoke.

“These are cancer-causing chemicals,” Struik said. “There is therefore a risk that future cancer rates will increase.”

We’ve been here before

Experts say it’s disconcerting that these pouches are being sold in convenience stores without age regulations, considering what happened with e-cigarettes several years ago.

In 2018, Canada introduced a new law on tobacco and vaping products that allows the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone aged 18 and over. Five years later, Canada had some of the highest vaping rates among teens in the world.

After the law changed in 2018, “we immediately started marketing in convenience stores and vaping tripled among youth,” Hammond said.

Some provinces have since banned tobacco-free flavors from e-cigarettes.

Advertising for nicotine pouches is similar to what we’ve seen with e-cigarettes, experts say.

“If you look at the original social media campaign (for the covers), it’s all about young people and partying and using them whenever you can. It doesn’t seem like a therapeutic product,” Hammond said.

These are the same tactics the tobacco industry uses to market its cigarettes, he noted.

A woman poses for a photo
Laura Struik, an assistant professor at UBC Okanagan’s school of nursing, says the younger someone starts using nicotine, the harder it is to quit. (Submitted by Laura Struik)

Earlier this month, a spokesperson for Imperial Tobacco, the company that makes Zonnic, told CBC News that after speaking with Health Canada, the company had voluntarily removed parts of its advertising campaign featuring featured young people and had placed the 18 and over age label more clearly on its products. wrap.

How to talk to your children

Both Chadi and Struik say parents and guardians should have open conversations with their children about nicotine pouches.

“We can’t go into this and say, ‘This is bad for you; don’t do it,’” Struik said.

Instead, she suggests staying curious and asking your teen or tween what they’ve heard about the products or if any friends use them.

Struik even bought vaping devices to show his 10-year-old daughter what they are and what they look like.

“A lot of parents don’t even know what these devices or pouches look like,” she said.

Having these conversations “can go a long way toward building that trust.”

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