Do you remember how you first learned of nicotine pouches? Perhaps it was a friend who told you about them, or you saw a sign advertising a promotion at a convenience store. However you came to find out about the smokeless, tobacco-free option for nicotine, you are not alone. A recent study shares that more people than ever now know about nicotine pouches, and many of them are smokers.
What is the study about?
Mary Hrywna, from the Rutgers Center for Tobacco Studies, along with other researchers, sought to learn about attitudes around tobacco-free alternatives to smoking. Before the study, very little research was done on interest or awareness surrounding nicotine pouches. Yes, research was performed on sales and use, but the researchers wanted to know the responses to questions like:
- Have you heard of tobacco-free nicotine pouches?
- Have you ever tried them?
- How interested are you in trying them over the next six months?
Since nicotine pouches had only been sold in the U.S. market since 2016 and didn’t really become popular until 2019, the study’s goal was to reveal if there were people who may be aware or interested in certain segments of the population. The study also looked at use to see if there was a connection between those who had tried to quit, those who had used smokeless tobacco products, and those who had tried nicotine pouches.
Who participated in the study?
The researchers targeted 1,018 U.S. smokers as their demographic of choice, specifically asking those 18 years of age or older who currently smoked and had consumed at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime.
Most of the participants were male, between the ages of 45 and 59, with a high school education or less, and had no plans to quit smoking. Some had tried vaping or e-cigarettes, and others had tried tobacco-free pouches. The study assumed that if the participants had never heard of nicotine pouches, they likely hadn’t used them before, either.
What were the results?
Here are some of the more interesting findings from this research project:
The first interesting finding was age-related. Compared to smokers aged 60 years or older, those in the 30-44 age group were 1.7 times aware of nicotine pouches. The youngest age group (18-29 years) was most likely to be aware, at 2.0 times the odds of hearing about the pouches as their older counterparts.
Those who had used nicotine pouches before followed the same trend. Compared to smokers aged 45 and older, those in the 18-44 age category were 2.9 times more likely to have used nicotine pouches in the past.
Participants with some post-high school education or college experience were significantly less likely to have used nicotine pouches compared to those with a high school degree or lower level of education.
Of the smokers interviewed for this study, 5.6% had ever tried tobacco-free nicotine pouches. Those who had tried to quit smoking in the past, either through medication, counseling, or other cessation programs, were more likely to have ever used pouches. Former smokeless tobacco product users—such as those who used chew, dip, moist snuff, or snus—were also more likely to have used nicotine pouches in the past.
How many of the participants were interested in possibly trying nicotine pouches in the future? The number was much higher than those interested in trying other products. For example, 16.8% of the smokers said they were somewhat interested in using nicotine pouches within the next six months. Just 6.9% said the same thing about smokeless tobacco products, like dip or chew.
If a participant had tried nicotine pouches before, expressed an interest in quitting smoking in the next six months, and had also tried quitting in the past, they were much more likely to be interested in using pouches again.
Awareness by the numbers
The study showed trends based on age, experience, and future intent, but the overall numbers set a baseline for awareness of nicotine pouches among smokers. This data may be used to see how awareness grows over time within this group.
As of the study date (2021), nearly 30% of the adult smoker demographic knew about nicotine pouches, with those who had used smokeless tobacco and younger smokers having the highest rate of awareness. Around 5.6% had actually tried nicotine pouches.
Compare these numbers to a U.K. study done in late 2019, which showed 16% knew about nicotine pouches and just 4% had used them. As the U.S. market for nicotine pouches grows, marketing becomes more mainstream, and more younger smokers give pouches a try, these numbers could change dramatically over the next year or two. It’s also likely that we’ll see a continuing upward trend among smokers and possibly even other tobacco users.