How Much Nicotine is in Your E-Cigarette? - Chromatography Investigates
Nov 29 2019
Electronic cigarettes are recommended to help people quit cigarette smoking. In the UK, both the NHS and Public Health England recognise the benefits of using e-cigarettes as a step on the road to quitting smoking, especially when combined with face-to-face support. There is also the benefit to people who live and work with smokers in that so far, no evidence has been reported of harmful effects due to the vapour produced by e-cigarettes - this is in contrast to the smoke produced by cigarettes as second-hand smoke has been shown to be harmful to health.
Do you know what you are getting?
But are e-cigarettes safe? What exactly are the ingredients in the liquid you are vaping? Do you know what you are inhaling even? Whilst there are certain regulations governing the safety and quality of e-cigarette and refill containers in the UK - this is not necessarily true for other parts of the world. And this could have an impact in the UK as there is a market in counterfeit cigarette goods. A recent paper in the Journal of Environmental Protection has investigated the quantity of nicotine in e-cigarettes and compared it to the quantity listed on the packaging.
Nicotine delivery devices
E-cigarettes are basically a nicotine delivery device. They allow you to inhale nicotine as a vapour. But as e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, they do not produce carbon monoxide or tar - two of the chemicals that cause the most damage when smoking a cigarette. E-cigarettes work by heating a liquid that contains a carrier like propylene glycol, nicotine and a flavouring.
Nicotine is a highly addictive substance that is highly toxic at high doses. Because of this, policymakers have set limits as to the amount of nicotine that can be in e-cigarettes liquids on sale. This is the case in the UK and USA. But not all countries in the world have such regulations in place. Additionally, there is a lack of quality control in some countries regarding the tolerances of nicotine in e-cigarette liquids. This is the case in Malaysia where the above referenced research took place.
Chromatography measures the nicotine
The research team in Malaysia analysed 40 nicotine containing liquids and 32 nicotine free liquids and used gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to analyse the nicotine concentration. GC-MS is a powerful analytical technique as discussed in the article, Workflow solution for antidoping analysis including steroids in urine with GC-QqQ and GC-HRAM.
The team detected nicotine in three of the supposedly nicotine-free liquids. They also found that the nicotine concentration in 32 out of the 40 nicotine containing liquids varied by more than 10% compared to the quantity on the label. The presence of addictive nicotine in the nicotine free liquids could pose a health risk to some users, whilst the variation in the nicotine containing liquids indicates a lack of commercial reliability in some manufacturers.
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