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New model predicts amount of nicotine emitted from e-cigs

Researchers have developed the first ever, evidence-based model that can predict with up to 90 per cent accuracy the amount of nicotine emitted by an electronic cigarette.

Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center researchers collected data about the voltage and other characteristics of various e-cigarette devices, the concentration of the liquid nicotine that could be put in the devices, and the length of time a user might inhale from the device in one puff.

The researchers, working in collaboration with investigators at the American University of Beirut, then developed a mathematical model to determine how much nicotine was emitted from the devices as the device voltage and the nicotine liquid concentration were increased and the user puff duration was extended.

The model predicted that higher voltage e-cigarette devices paired with high-concentration nicotine liquids could emit greater levels of the addictive substance than those of a traditional tobacco cigarette, depending on user puff duration.

“Laboratory results showed that nicotine yields from 15 puffs on an e-cigarette varied by more than 50 times across various device, liquid and user behaviour conditions,” said the research team member Thomas Eissenberg, director of the VCU Center for the Study of Tobacco Products and member of the Cancer Prevention and Control research programme at Massey.

In a subsequent clinical study conducted at VCU, the researchers also observed that experienced e-cigarette users were more likely to take longer puffs than novice users, resulting in higher levels of nicotine being delivered to their bloodstream.

According to Eissenberg, who is also professor in the Psychology Department at the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences, these findings indicate that without federal regulation on these devices users could become more addicted to nicotine from e-cigarette use than from smoking a conventional combustible cigarette.

“When used as intended, an electronic cigarette should not produce a nicotine yield in excess of that of a combustible cigarette, a device that we already know has lethal health effects. If it does, then we are essentially making an already addictive drug delivery system even more addictive,” said Eissenberg.

Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable cancer incidence in the US, with the general assumption that e-cigarettes are a “safer” alternative as a nicotine delivery method.

This could be true, Eissenberg said, as long as the e-cigarette device and its liquid are not designed in a way that would deliver excessive levels of the addictive substance or other dangerous chemicals to the user.

With the novel nicotine mathematical model, researchers will now be able to predict with a great deal of accuracy how much nicotine will be delivered to an e-cigarette user before a device is even designed.