There are several cases a week of children being admitted to the hospital with nicotine poisoning after ingesting nicotine pouches, RÚV reports. Ragnar Grímur Bjarnason, chief physician at the Children’s Hospital, says most poisonings occur at home and many parents don’t realise that nicotine is a strong toxic chemical that can have much more serious consequences for children than adults.
Snus, a moist tobacco powder, is illegal in Iceland, but nicotine pouches are very similar. These are small, hand-or premade sachets filled with loose tobacco powder and then held between the upper lip and the gum for extended nicotine release. Although cigarette smoking has declined in Iceland, nicotine pouches have seen an increased popularity in recent years, particularly among young people. In 2021, nearly a third of Icelanders aged 18-34 were using nicotine pouches on a daily or nearly daily basis.
Nicotine poisonings among children are not a new phenomenon, says Ragnar Grímur. “Naturally, when everyone was vaping, the oils were being left out all over the place. They smelled good and were pretty colours. So at that time, we were getting a lot of those poisonings. They’re also flavoured and taste much better than cigarettes in an ashtray, which was the main cause of [nicotine] poisoning a few decades ago.”
Nicotine poisoning is very serious for children and can necessitate intensive care or even be life-threatening.
“Most people who have tried nicotine know what the most common reactions are,” says Ragnar Grímur. “There’s nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and discomfort. But in children, it can also have very serious effects on the central nervous system.”