More and more poisonings in France: nicotine sachets in the sights of health authorities

More and more poisonings in France: nicotine sachets in the sights of health authorities

Les sachets de nicotine seraient de plus en plus plébiscités par les jeunes générations, mais ne seraient pas sans risque pour la santé, révèle une nouvelle étude américaine. Andrii Atanov/Getty Images

Unlike snus, illegal in France and in almost all countries of the European Union since the early 1990s, nicotine sachets benefit from legal vagueness, and are experiencing a growing craze on social networks, but not only…

A phenomenon confirmed by an American study, which warns of the potential harmful effects of such use, particularly among younger generations.

If we mainly talk about snus to evoke what we present today as alternatives, or even substitutes, to cigarettes, it is indeed the nicotine sachets which are all the rage among young people. And for good reason, the first is illegal in France, while the second benefits from legal vagueness which allows it to be marketed in many countries around the world, including the France.

If these two products are similar in the way they are consumed, namely a sachet to be placed between the gum and the lip, they do not however contain the same substances, tobacco for the one, a nicotine-based powder for the other. Nicotine sachets were recently the subject of a large-scale study in the United States, with a view to evaluating users and health risks.

Towards an increase in consumption?

"Oral nicotine pouches were first introduced in the United States during the past decade. These are sachets of pre-portioned white granules containing nicotine, placed between the gums and lips, marketed as tobacco-free and sold in different flavors and nicotine strengths", specify researchers from the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, a cancer center located on the campus of Georgetown University in Washington, in a press release. For the purposes of their work, the researchers evaluated data from 62 studies related to the use of nicotine sachets, including 45 university studies and 17 funded by industry, mainly in Scandinavia and the United States. United States.

Published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, the study indicates that a tiny portion of young Americans (1.5%) used nicotine sachets until 2023, and that fewer 2.5% had already used them during their life. Which does not mean that they are not aware of this product, since 35% to 42% of American adolescents and young adults had already heard of it. If we now look at adults, between 0.8% and 3% of Americans said they would use them in 2023, while between 3% and 16% had already experienced them. nicotine sachets. A use which may seem low, but the authors of this research specify: "Given the upward trends in sales of nicotine sachets in 2024, their use within the American population probably increased.

A risk of dependence

It is this potential increase that alarms scientists, for two reasons. Although they do not contain tobacco, these sachets can still cause nicotine dependence, and lead young people to consume tobacco products in the long term. "As with e-cigarettes, the wide variety of flavors and aggressive marketing campaigns we see, particularly through social media, have the potential to ;attract young people, offering a new route to nicotine addiction", argues Nargiz Travis, one of the authors of this work.

The analysis of 37 nicotine sachets of different brands also revealed "a wide range of total nicotine contents, ranging from 0 .89 to 6.73 milligrams per sachet". This is despite the fact that researchers point out that these products contain fewer harmful chemical compounds than cigarettes. "Nicotine pouches are quickly gaining popularity. Although they may provide a less harmful alternative to nicotine for cigarette users, there is considerable concern that they could become a new form of nicotine addiction, particularly among young people who do not use cigarettes. neither tobacco nor nicotine", continues Nargiz Travis.

And to conclude: "In the United States, nicotine sachets are currently neither authorized by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration, in charge of drug monitoring, editor's note) to be marketed as modified risk products, nor approved as smoking cessation products. It is important to know that nicotine is an addictive chemical that has harmful health effects, whether it is synthetic, i.e. non-tobacco, or derived tobacco".

What about France ?

In France, the consumption of these products is in the sights of many associations, just as their effects are closely monitored. At the end of last May, the National Committee Against Smoking (CNCT) demanded, on the sidelines of World No Tobacco Day, "the ban on nicotine sachets", before let it be known that he had "filed a complaint with the Public Prosecutor for trafficking in poisonous substances". The Committee argues in this respect that "nicotine sachets do not have a marketing authorization and do not belong to the category of exceptions concerning authorized nicotine products".

For its part, the National Food Safety Agency (ANSES) took stock, at the end of 2023, of the risks induced by such consumption for young people . If she does not detail them according to the type of product, she explains: "Nicotine sachets, tobacco sachets (Snus), aromatic beads for cigarettes… Poison Control Centers are receiving more and more calls from people poisoned by these products". And to specify: "The majority of people poisoned following the consumption of nicotine sachets or snus were aged between 12 and 17 years old. (…) These adolescents presented acute nicotine syndromes, sometimes severe: prolonged vomiting with risk of dehydration, convulsions, impaired consciousness, hypotension requiring vascular filling.

L'Anses also indicated that the number of cases concerned was "probably underestimated", and that nicotine sachets could expose consumers to the development of medium and long-term dependence.

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