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Zyn Rewards: Nicotine pouch users are cashing in containers for $400 Apple Watches and $600 Dyson AirWraps

Dani Darlene was not a fan of her husband’s ZYN habit. Then she found out she could get an iPad out of it.

For years, finding ZYN pouches and containers around the house was “the most irritating thing,” Darlene, a 24-year-old personal trainer, told Fortune. But after learning about the brand’s rewards program through TikTok in February, the irritation took on a different form.

“I’m gonna take advantage of this,” Darlene told Fortune.

ZYN’s tobacco-free oral nicotine pouches come in packs of 15, inside circular plastic containers resembling a can of Ice Breakers mints. Each container comes with a unique code that can be redeemed on the company’s website for 15 points—but they can only scan 60 cans per month. Users can then cash in their points for a series of prizes, ranging from handbags to air fryers.

“I feel like a kid in an arcade who’s getting all their tickets, and they’re going to earn a prize,” said Darlene. “That’s how it feels.”

After months of hoarding ZYN containers and painstakingly scanning in each unique code, Darlene was able to score a $50 Amazon gift card. Now, she’s trying to rack up 7,560 points—504 containers—for a ninth-generation iPad, or even 15,000 points—1,000 cans—for a Dyson AirWrap hair styler.

Most nicotine pouch users take two days to go through a single can day, according to online retailer NicoKick. So Darlene has called in her husband’s coworkers as reinforcements.

“They have a Home Depot bucket in the back of the truck and they just throw their cans in there,” Darlene told Fortune. “And then when I’m ready to collect, I take them.”

TikTok videos show other Gen Z and millennial users posing with dozens of ZYN cans, ready to cash them in. ZYN’s rewards program is reminiscent of century-old cigarette reward programs, where smokers could redeem coupons from packs of cigarettes for t-shirts, hats, bags, or other merchandise. But the company itself does not make that comparison.

“The ZYN Rewards program was modeled after loyalty programs for consumer products and services offered across a variety of industries to reward a loyal consumer base of strictly age-gated, legal-age nicotine users,” ZYN parent company Philip Morris International said in a statement to Fortune. “Items included in the program are based on customer feedback.”

Dani Darlene's ZYN stash.

The new cigarette coupon?

Current FDA guidelines regulating tobacco products do not apply to ZYN, said Dr. Zongshan Duan, an assistant professor at the Georgia State University School of Public Health.

“They have a lot more freedom to market their products in many different forms, compared to combustible tobacco,” Dr. Duan told Fortune. That includes radio, TV, print, and online advertising, he said.

ZYN’s tobacco-free status has enabled it to bypass federal and state-level regulations on tobacco marketing—including bans on coupons, branded merchandise, event sponsorships, and giveaways.

As for reward programs, those are still federally legal for tobacco products—as long as the reward is not tobacco, according to 2023 FDA guidelines. Marlboro has an active U.S. rewards program with Apple AirTags, $80 Visa gift cards, and Solo Stove Mesa Tabletop Fire Pits among its prizes.

However, FDA regulations prohibit “cigarette and smokeless tobacco” companies from selling branded merchandise—think Marlboro caps, Parliament suitcases, or Winston jackets.

Social media users have reported receiving ZYN-branded towels, neon signs, and water bottles through its rewards program, though a spokesperson for Philip Morris International said the current reward website “doesn’t include any of those products.” A “discontinued” ZYN beach towel is currently being sold on eBay for $89.99.

“I think the ultimate goal is the same [as cigarette coupons]—it’s just to increase the user behavior of those products,” said Dr. Duan. “But with a slightly different approach.”

What’s behind the rise of Zyn?

ZYN pouches have taken the U.S. by storm—they can be spotted beneath the lips of office workers looking to discreetly get their nicotine fix, or on the front lines of the culture war, after Sen. Chuck Schumer’s push for a federal crackdown on the “pouch packed with problems” led Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green to call for a “Zynsurrection.”

Philip Morris International said it shipped 131.6 million ZYN cans in the U.S. Q1 of 2024—a nearly 80% increase from the same period last year. The company’s U.S. business grew by 62% from 2022 to 2023, according to a PMI earnings report.

ZYN is marketed as an alternative to smoking or vaping—not necessarily as a path toward quitting nicotine entirely. But the company is adamant that it is not for first-time nicotine users. “If you do not currently use nicotine, ZYN is not for you,” its website reads.

“A lot of people ended up with accidental nicotine addictions” after vaping became popular, Darlene told Fortune. She said she has seen ZYN usage increase among her friends as they try to wean themselves off of smoking or vaping.

Darlene estimates her husband has gone through nearly 10,000 ZYN containers in his lifetime—though she says he has promised to quit before they become parents. Another reason to quit is “Zynflation,” she said. A can of 15 ZYN pouches now costs up to $8 in Colorado, where she lives, up from $4 around five years ago.

Ultimately, Darlene said she’ll take her husband’s health over an iPad. But for now?

“If you’re already spending the money, you might as well,” she said.

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