Zyn Nicotine Pouches Are the Latest Front in the Culture War


Photo: Jonas Ekblom/Bloomberg via Getty Images

As with many trends in conservative circles, you can trace the cultish popularity of Zyn to Tucker Carlson.

The former Fox News host has been praising the nicotine pouches for years as a way to get his fix without smoking. Or maybe more than a fix: The strongest form of Zyn, a small bag of synthetic nicotine that is roughly double the length of a fingernail, is known to be quite powerful. Careful viewers of Carlson’s old show occasionally spotted the outline of Zyn’s telltale cans on his desk on the network. But over the past year, Carlson has become evangelical about the product. “Zyn is like the hand of God reaching down and touching your central nervous system,” he said last March on Full Send, a fratty podcast that has quietly become a must-stop for Republican politicians. (For what it is worth, the universe of podcasts for guys is a very pro-Zyn environment.) In November, the Full Send team even gave him a can of Zyn that was nearly twice his height. “There is enough nicotine in this container to alter the course of history,” an awestruck Carlson said.

Zyn is quickly becoming the Kleenex-like brand name for synthetic-nicotine pouches, a product pushing Big Tobacco’s grow in a slump period: Industry reports state that sales of nicotine pouches are booming despite downward trends in vaping and tobacco. But thanks to Carlson and other proselytizers, the brand appears to have special purchase among right-wing culture warriors. And in a familiar tactic, they’re making a show of defending their God-given right to get blasted on nicotine pouches in the face of supposed opposition. Remember the debate over gas stoves in which conservatives vowed to take up arms to defend their consumer choice that no one was actually taking away from them? They’re doing that again.

Earlier this week, Senator Chuck Schumer called on the Food and Drug Administration to investigate the potential for minors to become addicted to Zyn and other nicotine pouches, which are widely available at convenience stores and gas stations for about $6 each. “It’s a pouch packed with problems — high levels of nicotine,” Schumer said. “These nicotine pouches seem to lock their sights on young kids — teenagers, and even lower — and then use the social media to hook them.”

In response to even the hint of Zyn regulation, online fans of the product went all in:

This is the internet, and it’s unlikely that everyone making jokes about defending their right to a six-milligram plug of nicotine is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative. But prominent Republican lawmakers have also taken up the issue. “The nanny state is alive and well with today’s Democrat Party,” the National Republican Senatorial Committee tweeted. Senators J.D. Vance and Tommy Tuberville backed up the message, while Marjorie Taylor Greene took it a step further, claiming that a “Zynsurrection” was needed to combat Schumer’s push. Representative Mike Collins had a similar idea:

You may notice that no one is actually talking about what Zyn does to its users. Zyn does not contain the known carcinogens in cigarettes, instead using powdered nicotine salt and food-grade additives. However, independent researchers warn that the full picture of its health effects are not yet known, as synthetic nicotine is a relatively recent product. (In a statement, Philip Morris International said that it is “focused on preventing underage access” and pointed to recent FDA data showing relatively low use of nicotine pouches by minors.)

But the merits of the product — and the sensibility of Schumer’s proposed restrictions — are beside the point. No one is really coming for Zyn. Truckers, partygoers, and office workers will be able to get blasted on nicotine without anyone being able to tell. Chuck Schumer hasn’t even had much success in previous calls for federal crackdowns on other widely available synthetic-nicotine products. This is all just another knee-jerk reaction to defend a product that is not going anywhere.

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