Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Detection of 5-hydroxymethylfurfural and furfural in the aerosol of electronic cigarettes
  1. Sarah Soussy1,2,
  2. Ahmad EL-Hellani1,2,
  3. Rima Baalbaki1,2,
  4. Rola Salman2,3,
  5. Alan Shihadeh2,3,
  6. Najat A Saliba1,2
  1. 1Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Chemistry Department, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon
  2. 2Center for the Study of Tobacco Products, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA
  3. 3Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, Mechanical Engineering Department, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon
  1. Correspondence to Professor Najat A Saliba, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Chemistry Department, American University of Beirut, Riad El Solh, Beirut 1107 2020, Lebanon; ns30{at}


Significance The wide availability of sweet flavours has been hypothesised as a factor in the popularity of electronic cigarette (ECIG), especially among youth. Saccharides, which are commonly used to impart a sweet flavour to ECIG liquids, thermally degrade to produce toxic compounds, like aldehydes and furans. This study investigates the formation of furanic compounds in aerosols when ECIG liquid solutions of varying sweetener concentrations are vaped under different power and puff duration.

Methods Liquids are prepared by mixing aqueous sucrose, glucose or sorbitol solutions to a 70/30 propylene glycol/glycerin solution. Aerosols are generated and trapped on filter pads using a commercially available ECIG operating at 4.3 and 10.8 W and 4 and 8 s puff duration. Extraction, elimination of matrix interference and quantification are achieved using novel solid phase extraction and gas chromatography tandem mass spectrometry methods (GC-MS).

Results Well-resolved GC peaks of 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) and furfural (FA) are detected. Both HMF and FA are quantified in the aerosols of sweet-flavoured e-liquids under various vaping conditions. Levels of furan emissions are significantly correlated with electric power and sweetener concentration and not with puff duration. Unlike saccharides, the formation of HMF and FA from a sugar alcohol is negligible.

Conclusions The addition of sweeteners to ECIG liquids exposes ECIG user to furans, a toxic class of compounds. Under certain conditions, the per-puff yield of HMF and FA in ECIG emissions is comparable to values reported for combustible cigarettes.

  • Prevention
  • Toxicology
  • Smoking topography
  • Electronic nicotine delivery devices
  • Carcinogens

Statistics from


  • Funding Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number P50DA036105 and the Center for Tobacco Products of the US Food and Drug Administration.

  • Disclaimer The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or the Food and Drug Administration.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.