Skip to main content
News Article News Article

Zyn rewards program follows Big Tobacco’s marketing playbook

Amid a dramatic increase in popularity, surging sales, and social media buzz, the flavored oral nicotine pouch brand Zyn is now enticing users with a rewards program that allows them to score freebies using points earned by purchasing their nicotine products.

Customers can scan Zyn cans to collect points, which can be exchanged for high-tech gifts such as Amazon gift cards, iPads, and Dyson AirWraps. However, users may not realize that Zyn – which is owned by Philip Morris International – is pulling from the same playbook that tobacco companies have used to addict people for nearly a century.

Brand loyalty rewards programs for tobacco products date back to the 1930s, when Raleigh cigarettes included coupons in every pack that could be redeemed for items in a free catalogue. In today’s world, where everything is digital, users simply scan a code on Zyn cans to receive points and redeem them for popular items. It’s even driving a new social media trend where Gen Z and Millennial users share their winnings on TikTok.

With oral nicotine pouches growing in popularity — and containing increasing concentrations of nicotine – Zyn’s rewards program is cause for concern. The highly sought-after prizes could influence customers to increase consumption for a chance to win – or sway new users to start using the product.

Oral nicotine pouches are rapidly gaining popularity

Oral nicotine pouches from brands like Zyn, Rouge, On!, and Velo have exploded in popularity nationwide, with sales increasing six-fold between 2019 and 2022. More recently, Philip Morris announced that shipments of Zyn nicotine pouches rose nearly 80% in the first quarter of 2024. Nicotine concentrations are climbing, too: sales of pouch products containing higher concentrations increased more rapidly than those with lower concentrations between 2019 and 2022.

Mentions of Zyn online have also been on the rise. Total mentions across the web – including on social media platforms like Reddit, TikTok, and X – increased by 80% between April and May alone, according to Truth Initiative internal data from 2024.


Rising impressions of Zyn across web searches and social media posts

Are Zyn rewards the new Camel Cash?

Brand loyalty rewards programs have historically been a key tactic in tobacco advertising. Many of the biggest cigarette brands, including Newport, Marlboro, Virginia Slims, American Spirit, Kool, and others have operated rewards programs, in which customers exchange receipts for points that could be redeemed for gifts.

Camel Cash, for example, looked like $1 bills and could be found in Camel cigarette packs starting in 1991. The coupons could be exchanged for branded items – turning users into walking tobacco advertisements. The 1998 Master Settlement Agreement now prevents branded merchandise from being offered in reward programs, although Zyn has manufactured branded coolers, now off the market, and branded metal pouch cans. Even if unbranded, rewards still raise concerns – and could influence customers to start using or increase their usage of addictive products.


Images are courtesy of The Stanford Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising (SRITA) collection and the Rutgers Institute for Nicotine and Tobacco Studies – Artifacts of the Tobacco Epidemic.

image of camel cash
image of camel cash rewards catalogue
Basic rewards catalogue
Virginia Slims reward cataloge
Marlboro Rewards catalogue
Camel rewards catalogue

Action is needed to protect young people from nicotine addiction

It’s clear that the Zyn rewards program follows the example set by cigarette brands. In addition, concerns have been raised that oral nicotine pouch manufacturers are mimicking marketing tactics used by e-cigarette companies to attract young people, including influencer marketing, appealing flavors, and sponsored events.

While specific long-term health effects of nicotine pouches like Zyn remain unknown, youth use of nicotine in any form is unsafe. Regulation is needed to prevent nicotine pouch manufacturers from following the same playbook that e-cigarette makers like JUUL used in the past. As Zyn and other oral nicotine product brands gain popularity, special attention should be paid to youth uptake and the potential role that nicotine pouches may play in youth nicotine addiction.