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OPINION - Forget disposable vapes, Gen Z loves nicotine pouches now

In news that surprised literally nobody — vaping is bad for you. Scientists at University College London this week published their findings in the journal Cancer Research that, oh yes, sucking on a candy flavoured nicotine stick “might not be as harmless as originally thought”.

As someone with a penchant for an Elf, Lost Mary and Crystal bar, you can take it from me — we all knew. Anything so delicious, coated in kawaii-coloured casing, was always going to wreak havoc inside the body.

So the gig’s up and yesterday the Government committed to ban the sale and supply of disposable vapes from April 2025.

Whoever wants to suck on a flavoured pouch over a pint, I hear you wonder?

But as one vice dies, another rises. The telegram from the Gen Z front line (the Blue Posts, Soho) is this — behold the rise of the nicotine pouch. You might have noticed this new, quite foul, little habit: small white bags which contain varying strengths of nicotine which users pick out of sleek-looking circular plastic pots and tuck into their gums. It stays there for 30 minutes, in which time the user looks like they have an ulcer, as the addictive substance releases into the gums for a nicotine rush. When finished they pull it out, soggy, and pop it back into its case.

A wave of companies, including Velo, Übbs and Nordic Spirit, are leaning on ritzy advertising (the latter took out wraparound ads inside Old Street station in trendy Shoreditch this January) and influencer campaigns to set these things flying — not to mention their familiar flavour variations, including “watermelon mint”, “tropic breeze” and “lime flame”.

It’s a growing market, last year worth £45.8 million, up from just £3 million in 2020, according to JTI data, and distributors note a current surge — Übbs has recorded a “staggering” 97 per cent increase in traffic to its website since September 2023 says Steve McGeough, its general manager.

The whole thing is chichi snus (snus being tobacco pouches banned back in 1992 under the Tobacco for Oral Use Regulations) — just without the baccy. Whoever wants to suck on a flavoured pouch over a pint, I hear you wonder? Just wait. I predict cries of “rah, where’s my nicotine pouch” before we know it.

Joe Bromley is the Evening Standard’s Junior Fashion Editor