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Tob Control. 2016 Nov;25(Suppl 2):ii88-ii93. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2016-053220. Epub 2016 Oct 25.

Detection of 5-hydroxymethylfurfural and furfural in the aerosol of electronic cigarettes.

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Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Chemistry Department, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon.
Center for the Study of Tobacco Products, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA.
Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, Mechanical Engineering Department, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon.



The wide availability of sweet flavours has been hypothesised as a factor in the popularity of electronic cigarette (ECIG), especially among youth. Saccharides, which are commonly used to impart a sweet flavour to ECIG liquids, thermally degrade to produce toxic compounds, like aldehydes and furans. This study investigates the formation of furanic compounds in aerosols when ECIG liquid solutions of varying sweetener concentrations are vaped under different power and puff duration.


Liquids are prepared by mixing aqueous sucrose, glucose or sorbitol solutions to a 70/30 propylene glycol/glycerin solution. Aerosols are generated and trapped on filter pads using a commercially available ECIG operating at 4.3 and 10.8 W and 4 and 8 s puff duration. Extraction, elimination of matrix interference and quantification are achieved using novel solid phase extraction and gas chromatography tandem mass spectrometry methods (GC-MS).


Well-resolved GC peaks of 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) and furfural (FA) are detected. Both HMF and FA are quantified in the aerosols of sweet-flavoured e-liquids under various vaping conditions. Levels of furan emissions are significantly correlated with electric power and sweetener concentration and not with puff duration. Unlike saccharides, the formation of HMF and FA from a sugar alcohol is negligible.


The addition of sweeteners to ECIG liquids exposes ECIG user to furans, a toxic class of compounds. Under certain conditions, the per-puff yield of HMF and FA in ECIG emissions is comparable to values reported for combustible cigarettes.


Carcinogens; Electronic nicotine delivery devices; Prevention; Smoking topography; Toxicology

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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