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Analysis of Nicotine and Impurities in Electronic Cigarette Solutions and Vapor

Jason S. Herrington, Colton Myers, Amanda Rigdon, Restek GmbH


Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are growing in popularity exponentially. Despite their ever-growing acceptance, relatively little work has been done to characterize their vapor. To date, the majority of e-cigarette research has focused on characterizing the solutions, which are ultimately vaporized for the end user to inhale.

The current study focused on developing a complete analytical package for the quick and simple analysis of electronic cigarette solutions and vapor to determine nicotine content and impurity profiles. Rapid (<5 min) gas chromatography-flame ionization detector (GC-FID) methods (using both helium and hydrogen carrier gas) were developed for the determination of nicotine content in e-cigarette solutions.

In addition, a straightforward GC-MS-method was developed for the determination of impurities in e-cigarette liquids. Lastly, a simple sampling device was developed to draw e-cigarette vapor into a thermal desorption (TD) tube, which was then thermally extracted and analyzed via the same GC-MS method. "is novel approach was able to provide detectable levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and semivolatile organic compounds (SVOCs), which were not detected in the liquids, from a single 40 mL puff. All three of the methods may be done with one GC, two detectors, and one analytical column (Rtx®-VMS), thereby reducing required resources and affording easy comparison of results.

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