Quitting smoking a positive resolution, but nicotine alternatives also carry risks

By Liliane Jurayj • Addiction and Recovery Services Program Coordinator

The start of a new year and setting resolutions are almost synonymous with each other. Close to 40% of the US population sets resolutions at this time of year. Many resolutions are about getting healthier and feeling your best. Many people who smoke set a resolution to stop using tobacco products in the coming year – statistics demonstrate that almost 19% of the US population—approximately 46 million people—reported currently using any nicotine products in 2021 (National Institute of Health).

Considering this, it’s no surprise that about 1/5 of new year’s resolutions focus on quitting smoking or nicotine. Quitting smoking is the number one thing you can do to improve your health – it is the top preventable cause of death in the U.S. Regular to heavy smoking of tobacco products is linked to a significantly shorter life span; estimates are that heavy smokers lose approximately 10-13 years of life.


In the pursuit of stopping smoking, many people turn to nicotine alternatives. This can he a helpful way to begin the process of stopping smoking. But there are now so many options that it can be hard to know what the health impacts are of the alternatives.

In recent years, the market for nicotine alternatives has expanded significantly, with synthetic nicotine pouch sales (like Zyn) increasing 300x from 2016 to 2020. Introducing products like synthetic nicotine and nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) have started conversations about their perceived riskless way to ingest nicotine. With claims of reduced harm compared to traditional smoking, these alternatives have gained traction among individuals seeking to quit or reduce their tobacco intake.

Synthetic nicotine, made through chemical synthesis compared to the tobacco plant, has emerged as an alternative to traditional tobacco-derived nicotine, aiming to reduce harmful chemicals found in tobacco products. This form of nicotine is found in most NRT like oral pouches, nicotine gum, skin patches, and lozenges and is typically used to limit the physical withdrawal symptoms of quitting tobacco. However, it’s vital to recognize that synthetic nicotine isn’t devoid of risks.

Nicotine, regardless of its source, is inherently addictive and can lead to dependence, perpetuating the cycle of use. Moreover, these alternatives pose potential health risks, including increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, increased gum irritation, and adverse effects on cardiovascular health. Long-term studies are lacking, leaving uncertainties about their safety and highlighting the need for cautious consideration when using such products.

Understanding the addictive nature and potential health risks associated with synthetic nicotine and NRTs is crucial. Users should approach these alternatives cautiously, being mindful of the potential consequences. If you are planning to use NRT to aid your recovery journey, awareness, education, and informed decision-making play pivotal roles during this time.

JFCS Addiction and Recovery Services is here to help you on your journey of recovery, reach out to us for support, to talk about your goals and plans for the new year or to discuss how to support your loved one who may be suffering from addiction: lpersky@jfcsmpls.org or 952-542-4825

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