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Electronic cigarette nicotine delivery can exceed that of combustible cigarettes: a preliminary report
  1. Carolina P Ramôa1,2,
  2. Marzena M Hiler1,2,
  3. Tory R Spindle1,2,
  4. Alexa A Lopez1,2,
  5. Nareg Karaoghlanian4,
  6. Thokozeni Lipato1,3,
  7. Alison B Breland1,2,
  8. Alan Shihadeh1,4,
  9. Thomas Eissenberg1,2
  1. 1Center for the Study of Tobacco Products, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA
  2. 2Department of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA
  3. 3Department of Internal Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA
  4. 4Department of Mechanical Engineering, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon
  1. Correspondence to Dr Thomas Eissenberg, Department of Psychology, Center for the Study of Tobacco Products, College of Humanities and Sciences, Virginia Commonwealth University, 1112 East Clay Street, Suite B-08, PO Box 980205, Richmond, VA 23298, USA; teissenb{at}


Introduction Electronic cigarettes (ECIGs) aerosolise a liquid that usually contains propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerine, flavourants and the dependence-producing drug, nicotine, in various concentrations. This laboratory study examined the relationship between liquid nicotine concentration and plasma nicotine concentration and puffing behaviour in experienced ECIG users.

Methods Sixteen ECIG-experienced participants used a 3.3-Volt ECIG battery attached to a 1.5-Ohm dual-coil ‘cartomiser’ loaded with 1 mL of a flavoured propylene glycol/vegetable glycerine liquid to complete four sessions, at least 2 days apart, that differed by nicotine concentration (0, 8, 18 or 36 mg/mL). In each session, participants completed two 10-puff ECIG-use bouts (30 s puff interval) separated by 60 min. Venous blood was sampled to determine plasma nicotine concentration. Puff duration, volume and average flow rate were measured.

Results Immediately after bout 1, mean plasma nicotine concentration was 5.5 ng/mL (SD=7.7) for 0 mg/mL liquid, with significantly (p<0.05) higher mean concentrations observed for the 8 (mean=17.8 ng/mL, SD=14.6), 18 (mean=25.9 ng/mL, SD=17.5) and 36 mg/mL (mean=30.2 ng/mL; SD=20.0) concentrations; a similar pattern was observed for bout 2. For bout 1, at 36 mg/mL, the mean post- minus pre-bout difference was 24.1 ng/mL (SD=18.3). Puff topography data were consistent with previous results and revealed few reliable differences across conditions.

Discussion This study demonstrates a relationship between ECIG liquid nicotine concentration and user plasma nicotine concentration in experienced ECIG users. Nicotine delivery from some ECIGs may exceed that of a combustible cigarette. The rationale for this higher level of nicotine delivery is uncertain.

  • Nicotine
  • Electronic nicotine delivery devices
  • Addiction

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