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E-cigarettes: Impact of E-Liquid Components and Device Characteristics on Nicotine Exposure

[ Vol. 16 , Issue. 4 ]


Elise E. DeVito* and Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin   Pages 438 - 459 ( 22 )


Background: Electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use has increased substantially in recent years. While e-cigarettes have been proposed as a potentially effective smoking cessation tool, dualuse in smokers is common and e-cigarettes are widely used by non-smokers, including youth and young-adult non-smokers. Nicotine, the primary addictive component in cigarettes, is present at varying levels in many e-liquids. E-cigarettes may lead to initiation of nicotine use in adult and youth non-smokers, re-initiation of nicotine dependence in ex-smokers or increased severity of nicotine dependence in dual-users of cigarettes and e-cigarettes. As such, there are important clinical and policy implications to understanding factors impacting nicotine exposure from e-cigarettes. However, the broad and rapidly changing range of e-liquid constituents and e-cigarette hardware which could impact nicotine exposure presents a challenge. Recent changes in regulatory oversight of e-cigarettes underscore the importance of synthesizing current knowledge on common factors which may impact nicotine exposure.

Methods: This review focuses on factors which may impact nicotine exposure by changing e-cigarette use behavior, puff topography, altering the nicotine yield (amount of nicotine exiting the e-cigarette mouth piece including nicotine exhaled as vapor) or more directly by altering nicotine absorption and bioavailability.

Results: Topics reviewed include e-liquid components or characteristics including flavor additives (e.g., menthol), base e-liquid ingredients (propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin), components commonly used to dissolve flavorants (e.g., ethanol), and resulting properties of the e-liquid (e.g., pH), e-cigarette device characteristics (e.g., wattage, temperature, model) and user behavior (e.g., puff topography) which may impact nicotine exposure.

Conclusion: E-liquid characteristics and components, e-cigarette hardware and settings, and user behavior can all contribute substantially to nicotine exposure from e-cigarettes.


E-cigarette, electronic cigarette, nicotine, vaping, flavor, e-liquid.


Yale University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, New Haven, CT, Yale University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, New Haven, CT

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