Nicotine pouches, unlike combustible cigarettes, offer a smoke-free, tobacco-leaf-free, safer1 way to consume nicotine.2 Their rising popularity speaks to a consumer shift towards less harmful alternatives to cigarettes. However, this shift alarms policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic who are quick to slap new regulations on yet another nicotine product.

The EU's approach to nicotine pouches warrants closer scrutiny. Despite the long-standing ban on snus,3 an oral tobacco product popular in Sweden, the debate around nicotine pouches is heating up as the uptake of smokeless products increases4 (while smoking falls)5. Snus is a type of oral tobacco that originated and is popular in Sweden. Nicotine pouches are the tobacco-free cousins of snus. Debates around safer alternatives to smoking consumption gather momentum worldwide, even though both categories of products are non-combustible, so they pose less of a threat to lung diseases.

Nevertheless, the EU seems likely to ignore the possible health benefits of pouch consumption over traditional cigarette smoking. There are some tacit attempts to regulate pouches at the EU level, as revealed in leaked documents from Swedish MEP Charlie Weimers, based on the alleged success of the long-withstanding snus ban6, despite Sweden’s success in reducing smoking rates.

The Swedish model stands as a beacon of success. As Europe contemplates its regulatory approach, it's essential to learn from the mistakes and successes of other jurisdictions. In the United States, regulatory zeal has sometimes overshadowed the positive potential of a broader nicotine market, as well as consumer freedom considerations. By examining these missteps from across the pond, Europe can learn from America’s mistakes and chart a course prioritising evidence-based policy and consumer empowerment.

In the US, the debate over nicotine pouches intensifies as the Senate focuses on their public health implications. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has called for federal action against pouches, citing Zyn as a particular concern due to its rising popularity, especially among teenagers.7 Zyn is a nicotine pouch brand that is highly popular in the US, unlike many alternative options that are available, especially on the European market. This politicisation of the issue shifts the focus away from the health outcomes of policy and towards a debate on regulatory versus choice-oriented policies. As figures like Tucker Carlson endorse Zyn, the discourse becomes increasingly politicised, divorcing it from its medical and social implications and framing it as a matter of political ideology.8

Meanwhile, the EU's less frenzied approach still hints at tightening the regulatory noose. But is this rush to regulate in the best interest of public health, or is it a knee-jerk reaction to any increased uptake of a nicotine product? Among other hints, a recent Politico article reports that the EU is preparing for a new war on tobacco, but this time against pouches, a non-tobacco product.9 The irony is self-evident.

Sweden will likely become world champions in the fight against traditional cigarettes.10 Given Sweden’s success in getting smoking rates down by allowing smokeless products like snus on the EU’s doorstep, Brussels should be more aware than most of the potential of self-regulated consumption of safer cigarette alternatives. Instead, the regulatory debate prevails.

The crux of the matter lies not in overbearing regulation but in championing a policymaking philosophy of health outcomes, not virtue-signalling, particularly when it comes to nicotine pouches. Overregulation only constricts personal freedom, hinders innovation in consumer product technologies, and drives individuals back to more harmful practices or unregulated markets operating outside the law when a product is banned.

A policy approach anchored in scientific evidence recognizes the nuanced landscape of nicotine products and prioritises education and transparency as imperative. That way, Brussels can empower adults to make informed decisions that best suit their health and lifestyle, steering clear of a fear-driven narrative and embracing a more rational, freedom-respecting stance on the regulation of nicotine products.

This article was written by Çağın Tan Eroğlu. Tan is the co-founder of Individual Choice Initiative, a consumer advocacy group based in Türkiye, and a policy fellow with Young Voices Europe. He graduated from Bilkent University Faculty of Law and continues his studies as an MA Student at Bilkent University Department of Philosophy.


1 Smoke-Free World. (n.d.). Navigating the Path to Safer Nicotine Consumption with Nicotine Pouches.
2 Considerate Pouchers. (n.d.). About Pouches.
3 Tobacco Reporter. (2018, November 26). Snus ban stands.
4 Tobacco Prevention & Cessation. (n.d.). Youth and the Use of Nicotine Products.
5 Tobacco Control. (2003). Effect of smokeless tobacco (snus) on smoking and public health in Sweden.
6 The Spectator. (n.d.). The senseless ban on snus.
7 CBS News New York. (n.d.). Schumer calls for federal action on Zyn nicotine pouches.
8 Slate. (2024, January). Chuck Schumer Zyn controversy explained: Who's right?
9 Politico. (n.d.). Europe’s war against tobacco has a new target: Nicotine.
10 Smoke Free Sweden. (n.d.). The Swedish Smoke Free Story.