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Electrical features, liquid composition and toxicant emissions from ‘pod-mod’-like disposable electronic cigarettes
  1. Soha Talih1,2,
  2. Rola Salman1,2,
  3. Eric Soule3,
  4. Rachel El-Hage2,4,
  5. Ebrahim Karam1,2,
  6. Nareg Karaoghlanian1,2,
  7. Ahmad El-Hellani2,4,
  8. Najat Saliba2,4,
  9. Alan Shihadeh1,2
  1. 1 Mechanical Engineering, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon
  2. 2 Psychology, Center for the Study of Tobacco Products, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA
  3. 3 Health Education and Promotion, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA
  4. 4 Chemistry, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon
  1. Correspondence to Professor Alan Shihadeh, Mechanical Engineering, American University of Beirut, Beirut 11-0236, Lebanon; as20{at}


Introduction Use of flavoured pod-mod-like disposable electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) has grown rapidly, particularly among cost-sensitive youth and young adults. To date, little is known about their design characteristics and toxicant emissions. In this study, we analysed the electrical and chemical characteristics and nicotine and pulmonary toxicant emission profiles of five commonly available flavoured disposable e-cigarettes and compared these data with those of a JUUL, a cartridge-based e-cigarette device that pod-mod-like disposables emulate in size and shape.

Methods Device construction, electrical power and liquid composition were determined. Machine-generated aerosol emissions including particulate matter, nicotine, carbonyl compounds and heavy metals were also measured. Liquid and aerosol composition were measured by high-performance liquid chromatography, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry/flame ionisation detection, and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry.

Results We found that unlike JUUL, disposable devices did not incorporate a microcontroller to regulate electrical power to the heating coil. Quality of construction varied widely. Disposable e-cigarette power ranged between 5 and 9 W and liquid nicotine concentration ranged between 53 and 85 mg/mL (~95% in the protonated form). In 15 puffs, total nicotine yield for the disposables ranged between 1.6 and 6.7 mg, total carbonyls ranged between 28 and 138 µg, and total metals ranged between 1084 and 5804 ng. JUUL emissions were near the floors of all of these ranges.

Conclusions Disposable e-cigarettes are designed with high nicotine concentration liquids and are capable of emitting much higher nicotine and carbonyl species relative to rechargeable look-alike e-cigarettes. These differences are likely due to the lower quality in construction, unreliable labelling and lack of temperature control regulation that limits the power during operation. From a public health perspective, regulating these devices is important to limit user exposure to carbonyls and nicotine, particularly because these devices are popular with youth and young adults.

  • non-cigarette tobacco products
  • electronic nicotine delivery devices
  • carcinogens

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  • Contributors ST, RS, ES, REH, EK, NK, AE-H, NS and AS designed the experiments. RS, REH and EK performed the experiments. ST, ES and AS analysed the data. ST, RS, ES, REH, EK, NK, AE-H, NS and AS wrote the original draft.

  • Funding This research is supported by grant number U54DA036105 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and grant number R21CA239188 from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centre for Tobacco Products of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

  • Disclaimer The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the views of the NIH or the FDA.

  • Competing interests The authors declare the following competing financial interest: AS is named on a patent application for a device that measures the puffing behaviour of electronic cigarette users and is a consultant in litigation against the tobacco industry. ES is named on a patent application for a smartphone app that determines electronic cigarette device and liquid characteristics.

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

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.