Nicoccino – the new kid on the block.

Nicoccino – a new recreational nicotine product

I was very pleased to meet Michel Bracke and Frederik Hubinette at GFN14, the founders of Nicoccino Holding AB, which launched the sale of a novel recreational nicotine product in the UK on July 1st 2014. Developed in Sweden, the home of snus, Nicoccino is a small film (about half the size of a postage stamp) which users place under their lip as they would snus. The film is made from alginate extracted from seaweed and apart from nicotine contains natural oil flavourings. Currently it is only available in lemon peppermint flavour and containing 1mg of nicotine, although the company say they will be developing other flavours and strengths.

Unlike snus, Nicoccino strips dissolve completely in the mouth in just a few minutes. From my experience they do seem to deliver on the claim that one 1mg film is the rough equivalent in terms of delivery to one tobacco cigarette (although I haven’t smoked for over a year so current smokers may disagree). Once the film is in place there is a slightly peppery tingling feeling before you start to feel the effects of the nicotine. I have to say I was impressed with this product and used it on the flight home from Warsaw. However, another of my colleagues did not like it at all and found that it left his gum sore. This is a good illustration I think, of why there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for nicotine consumers and if harm reduction is to succeed a wide variety of products is essential.

The samples I was given came in individual vacuum sealed sachets, held in a small folded card package not unlike a book of matches. The branding is clearly aimed at the recreational market and the company pitch is that they are for smokers to use when they can’t, or don’t want to smoke. I will be fascinated to see how this product is received, not only by smoking and vaping consumers, but also by those in the field of tobacco control. The argument will no doubt be, just as it has been with e-cigarettes, that they undermine their efforts by allowing smokers to circumvent bans (as does NRT of course). God help them if they ever produce a bubblegum flavoured strip.

The really exciting thing for me about this product is that it will be attractive to those nicotine users who many in the tobacco control field have had trouble accepting exist. Those who enjoy the use of nicotine, have no intention of giving it up, but would rather not suffer the adverse health effects of lit tobacco. Those same people do not consider themselves to be patients, and so do not find traditional NRT products appealing. This product could, for some people, fill that gap.

Whether or not Nicoccino will perpetuate smoking by allowing smokers to circumvent bans remains to be seen, but studies in England so far have shown that duel use of cigarettes and clean nicotine products have had no adverse effects on the number quit attempts, and do very often lead to complete cessation of smoking lit tobacco, even if unintended*. E-cigarettes are not for everyone, and Nicoccino won’t be either, but it’s another safer alternative for smokers and as such should be welcomed.

*Professor Robert West et al, Smoking Toolkit Study

The above was a blog I wrote a few months ago but never got around to publishing. I still use Nicoccino and my views of the product remain the same. I was however disappointed more recently to see the company perpetuate the demonisation of smokers in order to increase sales. Their target customers are smokers and vapers (who are almost exclusively ex smokers) and commissioning surveys which result in further opportunities to stigmatise those groups is likely to backfire. Nicoccino is a good product and it will sell on its own merits – there’s no need to try to force the issue by pandering to the puritans.

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