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No, the Vatican Didn’t Declare ‘Zyn Is Not a Sin’
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No, the Vatican Didn’t Declare ‘Zyn Is Not a Sin’

A satirical news story found new life this week.

(Photo Illustration by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Not since the release of Natural Light’s limited edition 77-pack of beer have American fraternity brothers been as enraptured with a product as they are today with ZYN. Coming in two strengths and more than seven flavors, ZYN’s tobacco-free nicotine pouches gained a cultural foothold across the country as an alternative to more harmful nicotine products. First released in 2014, the product has seen rapid growth in recent years, reporting a 62 percent sales increase in 2023.

This week, ZYN products caused a stir online after a satirical news report from May went viral. The report claimed that Vatican officials had determined that their use in moderation was not sinful. “Vatican declares ‘Zyn is not a sin,’” read a headline shared widely across social media.

ZYN initially got attention this week when its parent company, Philip Morris International (PMI), announced on Tuesday that it would suspend online sales of the product in response to a subpoena from the attorney general of the District of Columbia. In the subpoena, PMI was asked to provide the attorney general’s office with information regarding its compliance with an October 22 ban on flavored synthetic nicotine products in Washington, D.C. As PMI carried out a preliminary investigation, it discovered that flavored ZYN nicotine products had been sold on online platforms and by independent retailers in Washington, leading the business to temporarily suspend online sales from its website while investigations continued. “We remain committed to ensuring compliance with all laws and regulations concerning the sale of our affiliates’ products in the U.S. and worldwide,” PMI said in its statement this week.

Social media users quickly responded to the news, with one post declaring humorously that a ban on ZYN products would lead to protests across Washington by young men—the demographic that ZYN has become increasingly associated with online.

ZYN products went viral a second time on social media when a story recirculated reporting that the Vatican had declared “Zyn is not a sin.” The story, which was originally published on May 14 by the satirical Catholic publication The Roman Fly, asserts that the Vatican’s Dicastery on Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Non-Tobacco Nicotine Products “released new guidance on the morality of Zyn nicotine pouches,” suggesting that “low-dose Zyn pouches are not sinful.” 

The story reached newfound virality after right-wing commentator Jack Posobiec shared it on X (formerly Twitter) on Thursday. Posobiec’s post garnered more than 1.9 million views on the platform, where it quickly became apparent that many users believed the story was real.

While the Vatican has not addressed ZYN products directly, and it does not have a “Dicastery on Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Non-Tobacco Nicotine Products,” it does criticize the excessive use of substances including tobacco in the catechism of the Catholic Church. “The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine,” reads section 2290 of the catechism. “Those incur grave guilt who, by drunkenness or a love of speed, endanger their own and others’ safety on the road, at sea, or in the air.”

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Alex Demas is a fact checker at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he worked in England as a financial journalist and earned his MA in Political Economy at King's College London. When not heroically combating misinformation online, Alex can be found mixing cocktails, watching his beloved soccer team Aston Villa lose a match, or attempting to pet stray cats.