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Zyn Lawsuit: 2024 Updates

This article explains the allegations in the Zyn lawsuit as well as related controversy surrounding the nicotine pouches.

evident Editorial Team
published
March 20, 2024
can of nicotine pouches

Zyn, an oral nicotine pouch, has been making headlines recently. Already a source of controversy and criticism, two law firms filed a class action lawsuit in March 2024 alleging that the product is unsafe and that its makers market it in unlawful ways, including by targeting children and teens.

So, what is the Zyn lawsuit about? This article explains some of the controversy surrounding the nicotine pouches, the basis for the class action lawsuit, and what else consumers should know about the Zyn lawsuit.

Key Takeaways

Zyn Pouches: Background

The product at issue in the Zyn class action lawsuit is Zyn nicotine pouches. The pouches are sold in a variety of flavors and present a different nicotine delivery system from smoking that has been growing in popularity in recent years.

The defendants in the case are Swedish Match North America, the company that makes and sells the nicotine pouches, and Philip Morris International, the parent company and one of the largest players in the tobacco industry. (A Philip Morris affiliate acquired Swedish Match in 2022).

According to the lawsuit, Zyn pouches comprise approximately 70% of the total nicotine pouch market and represent a substantial source of revenue for the defendant companies. In fact, Philip Morris reportedly expects to make as much as $2 billion in annual revenue from Zyn in 2024. This is due to the nicotine pouches' existing substantial sales (Philip Morris shipped 350,000,000 cans of Zyn last year) and its continued growth (that number represented a 62% increase from the previous year).

Criticism and Backlash Against Zyn

Even before the recent class action lawsuit against Zyn, the oral nicotine pouch was making headlines and drawing criticism from a variety of sources.

For instance, members of the California legislature wrote a letter to the FDA in 2020 flagging statements made on behalf of Zyn. The letter asserted the problematic statements involved illegal cessation claims, illegal modified risk claims, and "illegal representations that Swedish Match products are 'approved' by FDA."

Additionally, a 2022 study on over 40 different commercially available nicotine pouch products found that tobacco-specific nitrosamines (or TSNAs) "were detected in more than half of the samples." (TSNAs have been described as "highly carcinogenic").

Zyn also made headlines when Chuck Schumer, the U.S. Senate Majority Leader, spoke out urging the FDA to regulate the nicotine pouches more closely and conduct research on the product's effects, particularly on younger users.

Zyn Lawsuit: An Overview

So, what is the Zyn lawsuit about? The complaint, which was filed in federal court in southern California on March 1, 2024, seeks to bring a class action lawsuit and makes various allegations relating to the safety of Zyn nicotine pouches and the marketing of the product, including that the companies specifically target kids and teenagers. (The two law firms that filed the complaint are Schmidt National Law Group and Schlesinger Law Offices, PA).

Specifically, the class action complaint alleges, "Zyns are designed to create and sustain an addiction to nicotine." And while many of the allegations relate to the marketing and advertising of Zyn, the lawsuit also claims that the product is simply too dangerous. The complaint alleges:

  • "Zyn was sold in a defective condition that is unreasonably dangerous and unsafe. . . because of reasons including the high delivery of nicotine, the likelihood of nicotine addiction and the risks of behavioral, cognitive, and mental health injuries, cardiovascular injuries, gastrointestinal injuries, and periodontal injuries, among other harmful effects."

The class action lawsuit seeks monetary damages for all members of the proposed classes, which essentially all persons who purchased Zyn in the United States or residents of California who "procured and used Zyn products" while under the age of 18. The lead plaintiff is Bailey Wolters, a California resident who began using Zyn pouches as a teenager.

Allegations of Marketing to Teens

A core allegation of the Zyn class action lawsuit is that the oral nicotine pouches have been marketed to kids while the companies have downplayed the addiction and health risks Zyn poses.

For instance, the Zyn lawsuit alleges that the companies designed their product to look like chewing gum and sell it in "gum-like flavors," such as wintergreen, peppermint, cool mint, citrus, and cinnamon.

Additionally, the complaint notes that the companies' marketing efforts benefit from so-called "Zynfluencers" on social media. Indeed, the lawsuit claims there are approximately 30,000 TikToks that have amassed over 700 million views under the hashtag #Zyn.

The lawsuit also alleges that Zyn's marketing campaigns emphasize "themes the industry has long known resonates with kids," such as "Freedom" and "Never Miss a Moment."

Deceptive Advertising Allegations

The lawsuit alleges the defendants use deceptive advertising, including by describing their product as "tobacco-free." Plaintiffs claim this "falsely implies that Zyns are not harmful or there is a reduced risk of addiction." The complaint notes that Zyn's nicotine is derived from tobacco, thereby making the "tobacco-free" claim technically inaccurate.

Indeed, the lawsuit notes that while Zyn pouches are sold in three different nicotine concentrations (3mg, 6mg, and 8mg), even the lowest concentration leads to more nicotine absorbed into the body on average than the typical cigarette.

Thus, plaintiffs contend that the companies' suggestion that Zyn is a less harmful nicotine product than alternatives is deceptive advertising and specifically used to target young tobacco users.

Basis for Relief in Zyn Class Action Lawsuit

cigarette, smoke, burning cigarette

The Zyn class action lawsuit seeks to recover compensation on a variety of legal theories, including:

  • Strict Liability - Design Defect
  • Strict Liability - Failure to Warn
  • Negligence
  • Fraud

Zyn Lawsuit: What's Next

With the lawsuit filed, it will be interesting to see how the litigation process unfolds. Class action lawsuits can take years of litigation to reach a resolution, whether through settlement or at the conclusion of a trial.

Philip Morris benefits from deep pockets and high-quality legal representation, but after years of successful defenses in court by tobacco companies, the tides turned in favor of plaintiffs as scientific research advanced and internal communications from tobacco corporations emerged, leading to enormous penalties.

Time will tell how the Zyn lawsuit plays out in 2024 and beyond.