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Might limiting liquid nicotine concentration result in more toxic electronic cigarette aerosols?

Abstract

Some jurisdictions have instituted limits on electronic cigarette (ECIG) liquid nicotine concentration, in an effort to control ECIG nicotine yield, and others are considering following suit. Because ECIG nicotine yield is proportional to the product of liquid nicotine concentration (milligram per millilitre) and device power (watts) regulations that limit liquid nicotine concentration may drive users to adopt higher wattage devices to obtain a desired nicotine yield. In this study we investigated, under various hypothetical regulatory limits on ECIG liquid nicotine concentration, a scenario in which a user of a common ECIG device (SMOK TF-N2) seeks to obtain in 15 puffs the nicotine emissions equivalent to one combustible cigarette (ie, 1.8 mg). We measured total aerosol and carbonyl compound (CC) yields in 15 puffs as a function of power (15–80 W) while all else was held constant. The estimated nicotine concentration needed to achieve combustible cigarette-like nicotine yield at each power level was then computed based on the measured liquid consumption. We found that for a constant nicotine yield of 1.8 mg, reducing the liquid nicotine concentration resulted in greater amount of liquid aerosolised (p<0.01) and greater CC emissions (p<0.05). Thus, if users seek a given nicotine yield, regulatory limits on nicotine concentration may have the unintended consequence of increasing exposure to aerosol and respiratory toxicants. This outcome demonstrates that attempting to control ECIG nicotine yield by regulating one factor at a time may have unintended health effects and highlights the need to consider multiple factors and outcomes simultaneously when designing regulations.

  • electronic nicotine delivery devices
  • nicotine
  • carcinogens

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