Are E-Cig Packets Accurate? - Chromatography Investigates

Feb 27 2017 Read 1038 Times

It is said that ‘smoking is the biggest avoidable cause of death and disability’ by the UK’s Royal College of Physicians. Anything to reduce the harm caused by cigarettes could potentially save lives. Many different strategies have been tried — with the provision of nicotine without the harmful components found in cigarettes favoured by health professionals and governments.

Nicotine replacements therapy in conjunction with health professional support is one effective method — with nicotine patches and gum being readily available to help people quit smoking. But the latest method is without doubt the use of ENDS — electronic nicotine delivery systems — commonly known as e-cigarettes. But the technology and marketing of e-cigarettes has expanded tremendously over the past few years and regulation has struggled to keep up.

Vaping — what is in the e-cig?

Now a few cracks are appearing in the healthy façade put up by the e-cigarette companies. Some reports are suggesting the ‘vaping’ is an attractive way for youngsters to start using nicotine and could lead to traditional smoking — defeating the original object behind e-cigarettes. And with regulation struggling to keep up, what exactly are you inhaling when you vape?

Several studies have shown that the labelling of the liquids that are used in e-cigarettes have inaccuracies — the concentrations of the contents, particularly nicotine, and the values on the labels are different. One of the latest was conducted by scientists from the University of Bari. The paper, published in the Journal of Separation Science — Liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry method for the determination of nicotine and minor tobacco alkaloids in electronic cigarette refill liquids and second-hand generated aerosol — again found inconsistencies between the liquids found in refill bottles and the labels.

Chromatography used to highlight inconsistencies

The looked at twelve different brands, examining almost 100 refill liquids and analysing the contents for nicotine and seven other tobacco alkaloids. The team used liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry, a pairing used when trace quantities are present in the sample as discussed in the article, Capillary Flow LC-MS Unites Sensitivity and Throughput.

Using a gradient elution program — where there are steady changes to the mobile phase composition during the chromatographic run — to separate the e-cigarette refill liquid efficiently and with a high resolution, the team found variations of greater than 10% in almost half of the samples (47%). They also found nicotine traces in over 70% of the nicotine-free samples.

The results of this study, and many other studies, demonstrate that regulation has not kept pace with the growth of e-cigarette use. Nicotine is a toxic chemical — manufacturers have a duty to ensure that consumers know what they are using.

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