Our Kids Are Living in a Different Digital World

Do you know what a Zynbabwe is? Or an upper-decky lip pillow? OK, here’s an easier one — how about just Zyn?

If you are scratching your head, don’t feel bad: Almost no adult I have spoken to has had any idea either. This is despite the fact that the nicotine pouch Zyn is a jewel in the crown of a multi-billion-dollar tobacco company. Haven’t heard of nicotine pouches to begin with? Neither had I. But when I ask my 19-year-old neighbor Ian if he knows what a Zynbabwe is, I get a shocked reply: “Youknow about Zyns?”

You may have seen the tins that contain 15 little white rectangles that look like the desiccant packs labeled “Do Not Eat.” Zyns are filled with nicotine and are meant to be placed under your lip like tobacco dip. No spitting is required, so nicotine pouches are even less visible than vaping. Zyns come in two strengths in the United States — three and six milligrams. A single six-milligram pouch is a dose so high that first-time users on TikTok have said it caused them to vomit or pass out. And while Zyns are presented as a healthier, smoke-free alternative to cigarettes, they are still addictive, according to Robert Jackler, a professor emeritus at the Stanford University School of Medicine who has studied nicotine industry marketing. And dentists are already reporting seeing gum injuries in patients who use pouches.

So how are kids learning about these little pouches? Greyson Imm, an 18-year-old high school student in Prairie Village, Kan., said he was 17 when Zyn videos started appearing on his TikTok feed. The videos multiplied through the spring, when they were appearing almost daily. “Nobody had heard about Zyn until very early 2023,” he said. Now a “lot of high schoolers have been using Zyn. It’s really taken off, at least in our community.”

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