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zyn

Zyn’s Popular Rewards Program Called Out For Promoting Nicotine Addiction From Public Health Advocates 

Zyn is a brand known for their flavored nicotine pouches that are becoming very popular among younger people. Users of Zyn are now collecting their containers, which are equipped with QR codes that can be used to collect points. Each can is worth 15 points and consumers can earn up to 60 points per month. 

When these points are redeemed on Zyn’s website, users can unlock items such as Dyson Airwraps, KitchenAid mixers, Tory Burch tote bags, and even iPads, according to reports

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Tobacco-free nicotine pouches like Zyn have long been used to help cigarette smokers aged 21 and up quit. The pouches are placed between the gums and lips to release nicotine into the bloodstream. 

However, the rewards system and aesthetically pleasing packaging has made Zyn popular for non-smokers on social media, especially younger consumers. 

The company that owns Zyn, Philip Morris International, stated that they shipped 350 million cans of their pouches last year, which was a 62% increase in the US when compared to the sales in 2022, according to CNN

Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, stated:

“I’m delivering a warning to parents, because these nicotine pouches seem to lock their sights on young kids – teenagers, and even lower – and then use social media to hook ’em.”

Shumer has called on both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate the health impact of Zyn and its seemingly intentional marketing towards younger individuals. 

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Dr. Robert K Jackler, a professor at Stanford Medicine and principal investigator at Stanford Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising, explained that while social media platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and X don’t allow for paid promotion from the nicotine industry, there are ways to work around it. 

“We saw Juul use hashtag amplification tremendously, getting users to put up posts with #MothersDay or #Party, or whatever. Now, it’s ‘Zynfluencers,’ or those who unofficially rep the brand on social media. There’s free organic marketing,” Jackler said, according to the Guardian

According to Fortune Magazine, Philip Morris International stated that Zyn’s online marketing, and rewards program specifically, is specifically directed to legal nicotine users aged 21 and above. Their advertising application for Zyn is currently being reviewed by the FDA.

Tobacco and nicotine companies are legally allowed to have reward programs under federal law, as long as the rewards themselves aren’t more nicotine/tobacco products. Zyn has a multitude of products for their rewards such as Apple AirTags, Visa giftcards, Zippo lighters, Swiss army knives, and Yeti tumblers. 

“You see people showing their prizes alongside packs of Zyn or even just showing the stacks of empty Zyn packs that they are going to redeem. This is free advertising for the company,” said Lauren Czaplicki, an associate scientist at the Institute for Global Tobacco Control at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

“It’s the gamification of nicotine use. The viral buzz and high value prizes really drive purchasing and consumption, which is worrying. Then you have the potential for people to get addicted to the product and to playing the rewards program game, and the two mutually reinforce each other,” Czaplicki added.

meta

Meta, Instagram-Parent Company, Sued By Multiple States Over ‘Addictive’ Features And Negative Mental Health Impacts On Youths

Dozens of states are suing Meta, the parent-company of Instagram, accusing the major tech company of harming young users’ mental health through addictive features, such as infinite news feeds and frequent notifications that demand users’ attention.

snacks

14% Of Adults Worldwide Are Addicted To Ultra-Processed Food, Researchers Say

Experts have stated that one in seven adults and one in eight children are impacted by addiction to ultra-processed foods (known as UPFs). The new research has led to individuals wanting certain products to be labeled as addictive.

flash

Cara Delevingne Addresses Paparazzi Photos and Reveals She Is Four Months Sober

Cara Delevingne revealed that she checked herself into rehab late last year after a period of heavy substance abuse and deep inner turmoil. The reckless lifestyle led to her concerning paparazzi photos in September 2022.

Social Media

Addicted To Your Smartphone And Social Media? It Could End Up Being Harmful

It’s not hyperbole to say smartphones, social media, and technology in general has become the center of our lives. We communicate, work, play, date, take photos, and do a million other activities, all at the click of a button. It helps to make tasks effortless and quick.

But as the rule with all good things, there comes a problem. Social media and smartphones can have very addicting tendencies that are becoming increasingly obvious. According to a 2021 Pew Research Center study, 49% of U.S. adults on Facebook — seven-in-ten users — say they visit the site several times a day, with 22% visiting at least once.

For Snapchat, 45% visit several times a day, while Instagram has 38% of users logging on frequently. The increased activity is especially prevalent throughout younger age groups, which apps like Snapchat are catered too.

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Of course, just visiting a platform doesn’t mean you’re necessarily addicted, especially if it’s only for a few seconds each. But, as Wall Street Journal family and tech columnist Julie Jargon explained, there a number of ways to tell if you’re obsessed with your phone and social media.

Jargon explained that if you find it hard to put your phone down, it could mean you’re using it compulsively, indicting addiction. Some examples of this might be a person refusing to do an action — such as going to the bathroom or walking down the street — without checking their phone.

This can certainly end poorly in a number of ways, from not looking while crossing the street or when driving, leaving both yourself and others in potential danger. According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, texting while driving can reduce a driver’s attention by 37%.

Like with all habits, these compulsions can be hard to break. However, you have a weapon at your disposal: your phone’s settings, which can allow you to slowly chip away your need to be looking at the screen, even it’s its forced.

“Try logging how often you check your feeds in a day, including those brief glances during spare moments,” Jargon said, emphasizing turning off app notifications, turning on Do Not Disturb, and configuring settings that don’t allow the receiving of texts while driving. Finding other activities to put in place of the moments you use for your phone time can also help to fill the void.

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Among other signs to look out for include using social media to satisfy yourself, suffering withdrawal symptoms when not using a device, convincing yourself you have an audience you need to serve, or that social media use is getting in the way of your life and preventing you from time with family and friends.

All of those possible signs can have a draining impact on your self-esteem and relationships, while an addiction can also lead to other potential problems that can threaten mental states. Studies have found potential links between excessive phone usage and cognitive functions, emotional reactions, and medical problems that include a lack of sleep, unhealthy eating habits, and physical loss.

So, what else can be done to help? Jargon suggested developing a schedule for social media and phone use, helping you to give yourself much-needed no-screen time while not cutting yourself off completely. Therapy can also be helpful for those that have developed serious conditions.

Caffeine

People are Vaping Caffeine—But Why?

For better or for worse, vaping has become all the rage lately — not only is an entire generation of young people growing up with nicotine addictions thanks to the success of companies like Juul, but people are also vaping marijuana in record numbers as a result of the proliferation of THC cartridges, which are distributed both in the states where marijuana has been legalized and on the black market where it has not. Seeking to capitalize on this trend, various companies have introduced products that allow users to vape a variety of substances, including vitamin blends and melatonin. Though the long-term effects of vaping various substances is currently poorly-understood, companies are advertising products that allow users to vape some common, legal drugs, like caffeine. Eagle Energy, for instance, sells a vape pen that delivers caffeine directly into the lungs, causing the drug to reach the bloodstream within minutes, much faster than the usual routes of administration like coffee and tea.

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Caffeine is widely considered to be one of the safest drugs available, with 90 percent of Americans consuming the stimulant in some form. Caffeine is known for enhancing alertness and preventing tiredness, and while most side effects are minor and uncommon, it can be dangerous in very high doses. While Eagle Energy advertises its product as providing “natural, plant-based energy,” it’s important to keep in mind that caffeine is still technically classified as a drug, even though it is derived from natural ingredients, and the extremely rapid route of administration caused by vaping may lead users to experience the effects of the caffeine more rapidly than intended.

That being said, Eagle Energy goes to great lengths to convince potential customers that its product is safe. On the FAQ page of the company’s website, representatives from Eagle Energy claim that their product is not harmful, especially relative to nicotine vape pens, as the plant-based ingredients are vaporized at a lower temperature than nicotine is and as such the vapor is gentler on the lungs. Eagle Energy also claims that as their product delivers caffeine via vapor, the effects of caffeine are felt in five minutes and last for about an hour, whereas ingesting caffeine via energy drinks takes a half hour for the effects to be felt, and the effects last for five hours or more. As such, Eagle Energy argues that inhaling caffeine rather than ingesting it allows for more precise control of how much users are consuming.

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Experts, however, worry that the rising popularity of vape devices for vitamins, melatonin, and caffeine may draw people to start vaping nicotine. While the CDC has linked the recent outbreaks of lung illnesses with vitamin E acetate, a compound found in illicit THC cartridges, experts warn that more research needs to be done to determine what the long-term effects of vaping are, and as such they cannot as-of-yet be considered with certainty to be completely safe. Experts also warn that the stimulating effects of vape products may be a placebo, as caffeine vape pens may not deliver enough caffeine to cause a stimulating effect.

For these reasons and more, it’s likely best to just stick with tea or coffee to get your caffeine fix, at least until more is known about vaping caffeine and what the research says the effects of doing so are.

Kratom

Potentially Dangerous Drug, Kratom, Surges in Popularity

Some use the drug in an attempt to rid themselves of an opioid addiction, while others simply use it to get high. The drug has been used in herbal medicines in Asia for hundreds of years, but little research has been conducted on its effects on the body. Despite the potential danger of using it, the drug is legal throughout most of the United States, as regulators have not yet caught up with its growing popularity. The drug, derived from a tree indigenous to Southeast Asia, is called kratom, and while some swear by its supposed healing properties, others warn that it could carry as-of-yet unknown dangers.

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In the United States alone, between ten to fifteen million people use kratom, for a wide variety of reasons. Though it is not itself an opioid, kratom has some opioid-like effects, as it’s often used to provide relief from chronic pain. While the scientific evidence for its effectiveness in treating addiction is scarce, many people who are addicted to opioids turn to kratom in desperation, and some swear by kratom’s effectiveness for this person. Others use the drug in a purely recreational way, as it generates a sense of euphoria, lasting for two to five hours. While the drug is not strictly speaking a hallucinogen, in high doses it can lead to psychosis. It has a number of other serious side effects as well: some users report nausea, vomiting, and constipation, while others experience dangerous effects like decreased rate of breathing, seizures, and addiction. At very high doses, kratom is potentially fatal.

For these reasons, the federal government, as well as many state governments, are pushing for a ban on the drug. While many view this as a necessary step to prevent the rise of another drug-related public health crisis, others warn that banning kratom could prevent people who are struggling with opioid addiction from accessing a potentially effective treatment. Kratom users believe that the drug offers a wide range of beneficial effects, from improving eyesight, to clearing skin, to boosting the immune system. Unfortunately, however, the scientific research that currently exists about the drug is far too sparse to justify any of these claims.

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The research that does exist, however, ought to be sufficient to dissuade any reasonable person from using kratom, despite its mild euphoria-inducing effects. When taken with some prescription medicines, kratom causes abnormal brain function, leaving a person unable to communicate and experiencing a severe headache. Kratom has also been found to be harmful to fetuses when used by pregnant women, leading to an infant who is born with withdrawal symptoms as their access to kratom is cut off. And it can be difficult to tell whether kratom has been mixed with other drugs to alter its effects, posing even more and unpredictable dangers to the user. Kratom is even sometimes sold mixed with dirt and mold by careless dealers. Despite these risks, however, kratom has become a trendy drug just like CBD has, and kratom is sold openly in cities like Portland. What’s important to keep in mind, though, is that just because a drug is legal, that doesn’t mean it’s safe.

Depressed Man

“Deaths of Despair” Reach Unprecedented Levels in US, Experts Say

Perhaps one of the most objective statistical indicators of the health of a society is the life expectancy of its citizens. In the United States, life expectancy has risen from 69.7 years in 1960 to 78.69 years in 2016, a gradual increase mirroring the success of medical advancements, public health campaigns, and general economic growth over the course of the modern era. However, American life expectancy has been on the decline in recent years, as a result of the epidemic of obesity as well as so-called “deaths of despair,” which include drug overdoses, alcohol abuse, and suicide. 

In a certain sense, this problem is unique to the United States, as other developed nations around the world have not seen a similar, concurrent decline in life expectancy. This worrying development persists despite the fact that the United States spends more on health care per capita than any other developed nation and that the quality of healthcare in the US, for those who are able to receive it, is comparable to that of most advanced countries. As such, experts believe that factors like “income inequality and mental distress” are the root cause of the increase in rates of death across the country, as the experience of despair leads people to make decisions that increase the chances of early death.

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When viewed as a public health issue, the specific factors that lead to early deaths among Americans become clear, as many Americans, even those who do not suffer from diseases of despair, can recognize the social factors that lead to the development of these illnesses either through their personal lived experiences or through the experiences of people they know. According to Anne Case, a contributing author of the book “Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism,”  “the pillars that once helped give life meaning—a good job, a stable home life, a voice in the community—have all eroded.” 

In Case’s account, the nationwide rise in despair has its roots in economic and political factors, as workers without college degrees have been left out of the increasingly-harsh labor market, men’s wages have remained stagnant for half a century, and companies have been eliminating decent-paying jobs with good benefits, instead outsourcing low-skill work to cheaper economies. Despite the changes in the distribution of wealth in the American economy, the government has failed to adjust to changes wrought by the rapid and accelerating pace of technological innovation and globalization, generating an atmosphere of despair among much of the American public, Case argues.

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While the highly-complex relationship between societal factors, despair, unhealthy behaviors, and early death requires more study, experts view the rise of drug abuse, particularly opioid abuse, as symptomatic of larger social pressures that reduce in people a sense of their meaning in life, instilling in them an attitude of nihilism and apathy that drives them to make unhealthy choices in pursuit of relief from their suffering. According to one study, rates of overdoses and suicides have been on the rise since the 1990s, suggesting that the problem is not just related to the current political environment, but also to longstanding social trends as well as substantial increases in the availability of illicit drugs. 

That being said, there are signs of hope that society is beginning to tackle the public health crisis of despair, as the stigma surrounding mental illness has diminished in recent years and an increasing number of businesses are prioritizing the health of their employees, including when it comes to problems like drug addiction and mental illness. If you’re experiencing despair, keep in mind that there exist resources to help with mental health problems, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), which is available 24 hours a day.

Vaping

Is Vaping Safer than Smoking?

When e-cigarettes were first introduced to the American public, they were marketed in large part as a safe tobacco-cessation aid, promising to help people quit smoking by allowing them to gradually reduce their nicotine intake over time. E-cigarettes and vaping generally were also marketed as healthier alternatives to cigarettes, as e-cigarette vapor does not contain much of the same tar and other harmful chemicals as cigarette smoke. In fact, Juul, one of the world’s largest e-cigarette companies, was found to have directly marketed to high-school kids, leveraging designs and flavors meant to appeal to teens and telling them that their products were “totally safe.” E-cigarette use has exploded in popularity in particular among young people, threatening decades of work done by the government to dissuade the younger generation from using recreational drugs like nicotine.

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While e-cigarettes have long been assumed to be safe due to the lack of combustion involved, recent events have introduced doubt about the safety of these devices. A few months ago, a string of vaping-related hospitalizations, some of which led to death, renewed fears that vaping is in fact more dangerous than companies like Juul have let on. In the aftermath of these mysterious illnesses, Walmart decided to stop selling e-cigarette devices, and some states even moved to ban flavored vaping products in an effort to minimize use among children and teenagers. The federal government has contemplated banning the sale of flavored e-cigarette ingredients as well, but has not yet done so. Eventually, the CDC tied the incidences of sudden, severe lung illness to counterfeit THC cartridges that were distributed in the black market, but an overall attitude of skepticism towards vaping in general persisted. Specifically, the researchers found that the ingredient vitamin E acetate, which is used as an additive to alter the consistency of THC oil, was to blame in this particular phenomenon.

While this year’s major health scare related to vaping turned out to be limited to counterfeit products, perceptions about the dangers of vaping persist and are supported by new evidence that suggests vaping can be responsible for some long-term illnesses. Specifically, an article published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine details a large study that compared the lungs of people who used e-cigarettes with cigarette smokers and those who did not consume nicotine over three years. Unsurprisingly, the last group had the lowest risk of developing a lung illness, but while e-cigarettes were found to cause problems in their own right, they were nonetheless considered safer and healthier than smoking.

“E-cigarettes should not be recommended.”

While differing in severity, the long-term health complications associated with vaping are similar to those associated with smoking cigarettes, and include chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The most dangerous form of nicotine consumption mentioned in the study was “dual use,” which is a combination of vaping and smoking, as not only does this practice maximize the amount of nicotine one consumes but it also exposes the lungs to the most amount of smoke or vapor. Dual use is the most common pattern of use the researchers found, signalling trouble for the millions of teenagers whose nicotine addictions are fueled by multiple vectors of drug consumption. The results of the three-year study corroborated animal studies on the effects of vapor on the lungs. Worryingly, the study also found that certain harmful ingredients, like propylene glycol, diacetyl, and even metals were present at a higher concentration in e-cigarette vapor than in combusted cigarette smoke. 

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Overall, the study is extremely critical of e-cigarettes, suggesting they are only valuable in a limited number of cases, and it concludes with the line “E-cigarettes should not be recommended.” In a small number of cases, e-cigarettes can be a good option for people who are trying to quit smoking as long as they use the devices with discipline and respect. While still harmful, e-cigarette vapor is less harmful than smoke, and vaping formulas can be adjusted over time to gradually reduce their nicotine content. That being said, as a result of the high prevalence of “dual use,” using e-cigarettes while trying to quit smoking can backfire, and indeed for most people using an e-cigarette is connected with an even lower chance of successfully quitting smoking. Other tobacco cessation aids, like nicotine-infused chewing gum or skin patches, are more effective in helping people quit and pose no threat to the health and safety of the lungs.

Girl Vaping

Researchers at Yale use Virtual Reality to Fight Teen Vaping

The phenomenon of teen vaping has certainly drawn a tremendous amount of concern this year, as a record number of teens report using vaping products and public health officials worry that a generation of kids will grow up to suffer from lifelong nicotine addictions due to the explosion in popularity of e-cigarette brands like Juul. Regrettably, while much of the work that’s been done to discourage young people from smoking cigarettes has been successful, teens are developing nicotine addictions nonetheless due to the marketing success of e-cigarette companies, which have been found to deliberately market tobacco products to young people and non-smokers. While vaping is widely considered to be healthier than other forms of tobacco consumption, it carries with it its own set of health risks, as the long-term effects of consuming nicotine via vapor are as-of-yet unknown and a series of vaping-relating hospitalizations earlier this year demonstrated that some vape products can be dangerous and even deadly.

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Dissuading young people from vaping is a difficult task for a number of reasons. For one, nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs that exists, and vaping products allow users to easily consume very large amounts of nicotine relative to smoking cigarettes or other methods of tobacco use. Additionally, as their brains are still developing, teenagers have difficulty assessing risk and making smart long-term decisions for the future, making it harder for them to appreciate the dangerous impact vaping could have on their lives. Teenagers are also notorious for their resistance to authority, and can have a natural inclination to reject messages from authority figures, instead taking cues from their peers in order to fit in with their social environment. Many young people believe vaping to be safer than other forms of nicotine addiction, and while this could be true, such a belief can cloud a person’s judgment when considering whether to start vaping. As such, researchers and doctors must come up with novel solutions for persuading children and teenagers not to engage in dangerous behaviors like vaping.

Like vaping, virtual reality is a new technology that has taken off in recent years

One such solution was imagined at Yale University, where researchers developed a virtual reality video game with the intent of discouraging vaping among teenagers. Like vaping, virtual reality is a new technology that has taken off in recent years, as display technology and advancements in computer graphics have made a product which for decades has been confined to science-fiction stories a reality. The game is called “Invite Only,” and puts players in the role of a student in a high school environment as they engage in scenarios such as being offered a vape pen at school or at a party and encouraging a friend to quit vaping. In addition to its educational value, the game is meant to be fun, engaging players with various activities and mini-games.

Though the project was developed at Yale, it was funded by Oculus, a virtual reality technology company owned by Facebook, and was created in collaboration with PreviewLabs Inc., a New Haven-based game developer. The game is the subject of an ongoing experiment, involving 300 students, designed to assess whether virtual reality technology holds promise as an educational and public health tool. The educational aspect of game-play involves players choosing from a number of dialogue options when engaging in conversations with in-game characters, which tests their knowledge about the effects of vaping products and the availability of resources to help people who want to quit. For instance, the game teaches players that they can text the word “quit” to 47848 for information about vaping-cessation resources, and that they should consult with a trusted adult, such as a parent or doctor, for help with their nicotine addictions.

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In the past, similar programs that leverage gaming to send an anti-drug-use message have been developed, with varying success. But the researchers hope that virtual reality will do a better job by immersing children and teenagers in a virtual environment that helps them imagine how drug use can impact their own lives as well as the lives of their peers, particularly in a world that is densely saturated with tablets and smartphones, which compete for young people’s attention. While the cost of virtual reality has decreased dramatically in recent years, the price of a virtual reality headset can still impose a burden on some, as the Oculus Go headset for which “Invite Only” was developed costs $150 or more. However, if schools are willing to invest in virtual reality technology, researchers hope that this platform can be leveraged not only to dissuade kids from vaping, but for other educational opportunities as well. The Yale researchers expect to have final results from the experiment by next year.