JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Chemical evaluation of electronic cigarettes

Tianrong Cheng
Tobacco Control 2014, 23: ii11-7
24732157

OBJECTIVE: To review the available evidence evaluating the chemicals in refill solutions, cartridges, aerosols and environmental emissions of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes).

METHODS: Systematic literature searches were conducted to identify research related to e-cigarettes and chemistry using 5 reference databases and 11 search terms. The search date range was January 2007 to September 2013. The search yielded 36 articles, of which 29 were deemed relevant for analysis.

RESULTS: The levels of nicotine, tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs), aldehydes, metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), flavours, solvent carriers and tobacco alkaloids in e-cigarette refill solutions, cartridges, aerosols and environmental emissions vary considerably. The delivery of nicotine and the release of TSNAs, aldehydes and metals are not consistent across products. Furthermore, the nicotine level listed on the labels of e-cigarette cartridges and refill solutions is often significantly different from measured values. Phenolic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and drugs have also been reported in e-cigarette refill solutions, cartridges and aerosols. Varying results in particle size distributions of particular matter emissions from e-cigarettes across studies have been observed. Methods applied for the generation and chemical analyses of aerosols differ across studies. Performance characteristics of e-cigarette devices also vary across and within brands.

CONCLUSIONS: Additional studies based on knowledge of e-cigarette user behaviours and scientifically validated aerosol generation and chemical analysis methods would be helpful in generating reliable measures of chemical quantities. This would allow comparisons of e-cigarette aerosol and traditional smoke constituent levels and would inform an evaluation of the toxicity potential of e-cigarettes.

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