In a toxicovigilance report published Thursday, November 30, the National Health Security Agency (ANSES) called for “particular vigilance” on sachets of nicotine, tobacco or even aromatic beads for cigarettes – these products leading to increasing more poisonings, particularly among children and adolescents.
“Puffs, nicotine sachets, heated tobacco… All are new products from the tobacco industry aimed at attracting younger people to nicotine consumption and dependence”, analyzes Bernard Basset, president from the Addictions France association.
According to a BVA survey published Tuesday, November 29 by the Alliance Against Tobacco, 19% of young people aged 13 to 16 have heard of nicotine sachets, and nearly one in ten young people have already used them. Between the beginning of 2017 and the end of 2022, the number of calls to poison control centers for this product “continued to increase”.
Recently appearing, tobacco-free nicotine sachets contain, in a permeable fabric, polymer fibers impregnated with nicotine and slip between the lip and the gum. They have different flavors (mint, caramel, apple), which are found in the liquids used in electronic cigarettes.
The symptoms linked to consumption are sometimes severe: convulsions, disturbances of consciousness, prolonged vomiting with risk of dehydration, hypotension requiring vascular filling. “This is unfortunately the nature of addiction: you tend to repeat consumption and therefore potentially consume large doses at dangerous levels,” regrets Bernard Basset.
Calling for “vigilance”, the ANSES study urged “a regulatory framework for these products”, until now without “clear status” or “any control”. Specialized sites or merchants can freely sell flavored nicotine sachets to anyone, without restriction.
“The annoying thing is that they find themselves in a gray area. Since these sachets are not included in tobacco products, a legal loophole allows their sale to minors not to be prohibited,” regrets environmentalist MP Francesca Pasquini. Co-rapporteur of the transpartisan bill aimed at banning single-use electronic vaping devices, the ban on nicotine sachets is “her next fight”.
Towards a next ban?
The Minister of Health Aurélien Rousseau has spoken out on this subject several times. In mid-November, at the microphone of Sud Radio, he explained that he was “personally” in favor of a ban. “We’re going to do the same as for the puffs. These little tips, which seem fun, are in fact the first step towards (tobacco) consumption. We will take our responsibilities,” he assured Tuesday on franceinfo.
While awaiting a possible ban and given the number of cases “probably underestimated” as well as “significant advertising on social networks targeting young people”, ANSES deemed it “urgent to raise awareness among the educational community, health professionals and those around young people at immediate risk, but also of nicotine dependence.
“At present, we can do education and pedagogy: point out the dangers, explain clearly that these small sachets of nicotine contain a product that makes you addicted and that it is a gateway product to others tobacco products,” adds Bernard Basset.