Introduction: The “Swedish experience” with snus is the successful, “real world” illustration of tobacco harm reduction. In the early 1970s Swedish cigarette smokers started to switch to snus, a trend that has continued over the decades, mainly among male smokers. Smoking prevalence among Swedish men is now down to single digit percentage figures whereas snus is used on a regular basis by c. 20%. This has not only resulted in significant health benefits for individual switchers, but has also had a profound impact on public health statistics. WHO data show that Swedish men have the lowest “tobacco-related” mortality in all of Europe including record low rates of lung cancer, oral cancer, pancreatic cancer, and cardiovascular disease (Table). One component of the public health success of snus is that it is manufactured according to the strictest standard for tobacco products in the world (GOTHIATEK®), the most publicized part of which is the maximum levels for selected, harmful and potential harmful constituents including nitrosamines, Benzo(a)Pyrene (B(a)P), and heavy metals. Over the years: the range of compounds covered by the standard has been expanded, and the maximum levels lowered.
But not one product fits all smokers; snus is a tobacco-based product and continues to be associated with the traditional, negative connotations of tobacco including increased risks of cancer; the current taste profile of snus may not attract current smokers; cultural barriers may impact consumption patterns in some countries; and the pouch causes a bulk on the upper lip. This is why Swedish Match have continued our product development to help to attract new groups of smokers to a low-risk, recreational nicotine-delivery alternative.
What is ZYN®? It is a novel, completely white, oral pouch product intended to be used as a recreational product, under the upper lip, in the same way as snus. The pouches are small and contain white microgranules of maltitol and cellulose which serve as a matrix for delivery of pharmaceutical-grade nicotine (Figure). ZYN® contains no tobacco. The product comes in a variety of flavors and in two nicotine strengths: 3 and 6 mg per pouch. Preliminary data suggest that the nicotine uptake from ZYN® is comparable to that from conventional snus. The product contains no detectable levels of TSNAs or B(a)P. Other GOTHIATEK® analytes are found at comparable or lower levels than in snus. Although no product standard for ZYN® yet exists, a formal standard is currently being developed according to the same principles that have guided GOTHIATEK®. ZYN® was recently launched commercially on the Scandinavian and U.S. markets.
Discussion & conclusions: Some current smokers seeking low-risk alternatives to cigarettes may not be attracted to conventional snus for a variety of reasons: the fact that snus is a tobacco-based product, the taste profile, and perceived esthetic problems. Preliminary consumer research suggests that ZYN® has the potential to overcome many of these hurdles. From a consumer safety perspective ZYN® contains no detectable levels of nitrosamines, or of B(a)P, which lowers the relative risk of the product even more than the safest tobacco product in the world – snus.
Dr. Johan Lindholm
Dr. Johan Lindholm is the global Director for Analytical & Product Science at Swedish Match.
Dr. Lindholm received his Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry from Uppsala University in Sweden in 2004 and was awarded the Best Swedish Doctoral Thesis of the year 2004-2005 in Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis. During 2006-2007 he served as a Board Member of the Swedish Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Dr. Lindholm is a board member for the Cooperation Centre for Scientific Research Relative to Tobacco (CORESTA) since 2014; a global organization with approximately 150 full members and as the Secretary of the CORESTA Tobacco & Tobacco Product Analyts Sub Group since 2015.