February 2024
Alan Dean Foster


I had never heard of Zyn until I read about it in a recent column by Emily Dreyfuss in The New York Times. Zyn is basically a concentrated dose of nicotine contained within a tiny packet that you place behind your lip, like tobacco dip. It is currently a thing on social media, produced with an obvious and unabashed eye toward promoting the product among kids (and so serving as a gateway to future use of nicotine-laced products).

This is awful and frustrating and all the “it’s not my/our fault” influencers and the companies behind the product should be ashamed of themselves. They will of course maintain their innocence and squawk their protestations of non-involvement all the way to the proverbial hell especially reserved for those semi-humans who market any kind of addictive substance to children. I say let's see to it that they all get addicted to their own product and then deny it to them.

Having said that, this column is not about zyns (read Dreyfuss’ excellent exploration of them and the current minor epidemic they have engendered among young folk). What really drew my attention was not the substance, but the delivery mechanism.

I remember when the term “shooting up” first gained currency. Film and TV flooded us with imagery of sad drug addicts sitting in dirty alleyways rolling up their sleeves, hurriedly applying tourniquets, one end of which they held clenched in their teeth while preparing a dose of heroin over a low flame, drawing it into a hypodermic needle, then injecting the hit into a vein, to be followed by bodily relaxation and a look of bliss on their face like that of a Trump supporter visualizing the Orange Deity’s prospective second term. Complicated process, no?

Moreso than rolling a joint, or laying out lines of coke on a table. Which I once had a reasonably well known actor do right in front of me in a crowded restaurant prior to saying, in a clearly audible cheerful non-whisper, “Want some?”

I declined, suave and sophisticated on the outside and petrified on the inside that a quartet of cops might be enjoying dinner at one of the tables within easy earshot.

We don’t need to discuss meth, or fentanyl, or any other drug that requires some form of visual exposure, however limited. The point of these little packets is that their contents can be ingested right out in public with members of said public being none the wiser as to what is occurring right in front of them. Intake via such packets proffers less visibility than chewing gum, much less tobacco. No spitting involved, no messy residue to dispose of.

The delivery method cuts two ways, of course. Someone who has to take a dose of a strong (legitimate) drug might be able to do so without revealing what he or she is doing. There is no capsule to swallow and therefore no attendant glass of water required to wash it down. Even aspirin requests that you take the tablets “with a full glass of water.” A lip-packet method of ingestion could be useful in non-teen social situations. Business meetings, for example. Or sports. Need a quick vim boost? No need to struggle to hide a highly visible can of energy drink. Just let that little packet dissolve against your inner lip. I’m surprised we don’t see professional athletes using the method right now, while contests are in progress — or are they?

The opportunities for promotion of assorted products strike me as endless. Where are the little packets of “midichlorians” marked “Star Wars”? Want a little more subtlety in your love life but are reluctant to show or admit to needing a little blue pill? Suitable performance-enhancing “lip-pillows” (that’s what they’re called — fits right in) are likely to be available any moment now. Fizz without the carbonation.

I’m just rambling. I’m sure every major corporation that sells anything ingestible, from drugs to fast food (pepper pouches, anyone?) is well aware of the possibilities and has their respective research departments working feverishly on new uses for the delivery method this very moment, soon to give rise not only to new products, but a whole new raft of slang. The kids will get there first. They always do.

It won’t be the first time a new method for delivering a stimulating or edible product has hit the market. I wonder who the first vendor of snacks such as olives, figs, grapes, peaches, plums, walnuts, cherries, hazelnuts and blackberries — not to mention grilled meat and some pizza — was at the Roman Colosseum?

I could go for some of that, regardless of delivery method. But I think I’ll pass on the lip pouches for a while. Unless, of course, something new and irresistible makes an appearance.

And that’s how such innovations get their start.

Prescott resident Alan Dean Foster is the author of 130 books. Follow him at AlanDeanFoster. com.