Health advocates are urging the tightening of a loophole that permits the over-the-counter and internet sale of nicotine products to minors in the UK, highlighting that while the sale of cigarettes and e-cigarettes is forbidden to under-18s, pouches are not regulated in the same way.
Most stores sell nicotine pouches, which are little packages of nicotine that fit under the lip. However, while the sale of cigarettes and e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18 is prohibited, this is not the case for pouches, as reported by the BBC.
According to Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), the absence of rules is like the ‘Wild West’. The regulations governing cigarettes, vaping products, and other medical items do not apply to nicotine pouches.
The pouches come in a variety of flavours with a packet of 20 usually costing £6.50. Leading brands have introduced their own restrictions on age of sale and warnings on packaging.
Calls for more regulations of nicotine pouches have been welcomed by one of the UK’s largest nicotine pouch providers, Nordic Spirit, owned by the tobacco company Japan Tobacco International (JTI), BBC reported.
Better legislative regulation, according to Hazel Cheeseman of the anti-smoking organisation – Ash, is required to prohibit free samples and sales to minors, limit the potency, and restrict marketing of the pouches.
“Companies are operating to what the law allows,” she added. “There is extensive promotion and no way to know if they’re being sold to people under 18. We need a regulatory framework that captures all nicotine products.”
New figures from ASH suggest that the number of people using the pouches in the UK is small. In its survey of 13,000 people, about one in 25 had tried nicotine pouches and awareness was highest among 18 to 24-year-olds, with 45 per cent having heard of them.
In a statement, the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We continue to review the impact of nicotine pouches, including by commissioning an expert committee to investigate their risks.”
The Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) is due to publish a report later this autumn.