Rising popularity of 'pouches' among Belgian youth worries health experts

Pouches or nicotine sachets are on the rise among Belgian youth. Although they do not contain tobacco, their increasing use worries health experts.

Nicotine sachets or pouches are not the same as snus, which does contain tabacco and is banned everywhere in Europe except Sweden. Both snus and pouches are sandwiched between the gums and teeth. With snus, these sachets release a large dose of nicotine, similar to the equivalent of 25 cigarettes. Like cigarettes, they give a relaxing effect, cause addiction and tobacco-related cancer.

Tobacco-free version

As snus is banned in Belgium and other European countries, the tobacco industry has launched a tobacco-free version. Although it eliminates the risk of tobacco-related cancer, experts say the addiction factor remains, which could encourage young people to start smoking.

The rise of pouches is a global phenomenon. British American Tobacco, for example, saw sales of nicotine pouches rise from 400 million to 2 billion units in two years. ​ Belgium is also surfing the international trend, especially now that the products are available online as well as offline.

In Liege and elsewhere in Belgium, these nicotine sachets are going over the counter.

"We find them in night shops, for a fiver, in colourful boxes with flavours like cola, strawberry, piña colada," says Adrien Meunier, a tobacco shop in Liège. "For a smoker, it's a way to do without tobacco by reducing the risk factor for cancer. But for young people, there are other risks."

Suzanne Gabriëls, Expert Tobacco Control at the Belgian Foundation Against Cancer, already warned that the rise of pouches is not without danger.

"I see those pouches as a way to make nicotine trendy again among young people", she told Het Belang van Limburg. "The manufacturers make those pouches very attractive and actively promote them to the young public through Tiktok and social media."

In the US, tobacco companies market the pouches as a means to feel better physically and mentally.

"Nicotine does indeed raise blood pressure, but the producers don't tell you that you quickly become dependent on it and that it can eventually cause more mental health problems," Gabriëls stressed. "The danger is that the younger you start it, the more addictive nicotine works," she concluded.


© BELGA PHOTO HATIM KAGHAT - Illustration picture shows a mobile counter shop for 'Vaping and Nicotine Pouches' products, on the first day of the first edition of CORE Festival, at Ossegempark in Brussels, Friday 27 May 2022. CORE Festival is a collaboration between festival organisers Tomorrowland and Rock Werchter.

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