Send to

Choose Destination
PLoS One. 2019 Jul 25;14(7):e0220300. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0220300. eCollection 2019.

Nicotine absorption during electronic cigarette use among regular users.

Author information

Department of Public Health Sciences, Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science, Pennsylvania State University, College of Medicine, Hershey, PA, United States of America.
Department of Psychology, Center for the Study on Tobacco Products, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, United States of America.
Division of Addiction Psychiatry, Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, NJ, United States of America.
Department of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, United States of America.



The capability of electronic cigarette devices (e-cigs) to deliver nicotine is key to their potential to replace combustible cigarettes. We compared nicotine delivery and subjective effects associated with the use of two classes of e-cigarettes and cigarettes.


14 e-cigarette users were instructed to vape their own e-cigarette device every 20 seconds for 10 minutes while blood was drawn at 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10,12, and 15 minutes after initiating vaping. Users rated withdrawal symptoms and side effects before and after vaping. E-cigarette devices were classified as first-generation (same size as cigarette, no activation button) or advanced (larger than cigarette with an activation button). Separately, 10 cigarette smokers completed a similar protocol. Fisher's Exact Test and two-sided t-tests were used as appropriate to determine differences in outcomes between first-generation e-cigarette users, advanced e-cigarette users, and smokers.


Compared to first-generation devices, advanced devices were associated with greater serum nicotine Cmax (ng/ml) (11.5 v. 2.8, p = 0.0231) and greater nicotine boost (ng/ml) (10.8 v. 1.8, p = 0.0177). Overall, e-cigarettes users experienced a significant reduction in withdrawal and craving, although there were no significant differences between users of first-generation and advanced devices. Comparing e-cigarettes overall to cigarettes, cigarettes were associated with greater Cmax (25.9 v. 9.0, p = 0.0043) and greater nicotine boost (21.0 v. 8.2, p = 0.0128).


Advanced e-cigarettes delivered significantly more nicotine than first-generation devices but less than combustible cigarettes. Overall, e-cigarette use was associated with a reduction in withdrawal and craving with no reported side effects. The wide variation in nicotine absorption from different e-cigarette devices should be considered in studies of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation.

Conflict of interest statement

I have read the journal's policy and the authors of this manuscript have the following competing interests: JF has done paid consulting for pharmaceutical companies involved in producing smoking cessation medications, including GSK, Pfizer, Novartis, J&J, and Cypress Bioscience. TE is a paid consultant in litigation against the tobacco industry and is named on a patent application for a device that measures the puffing behavior of electronic cigarette users. There are no other competing interests to report for other authors.

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Public Library of Science Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center