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Tobacco Control

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Electronic cigarettes -- Composition -- Analysis, Formaldehyde, Commercial products -- Testing


Objective The aim of this study was to evaluate the distribution, concentration and toxicity of cinnamaldehyde in electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) refill fluids and aerosols.

Methods The distribution and concentration of cinnamaldehyde were determined in 39 e-cigarette refill fluids plus 6 duplicates using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GC/MS). A cinnamaldehyde toxicity profile was established for embryonic and adult cells using a live cell imaging assay, immunocytochemistry, the comet assay and a recovery assay.

Results Twenty of the 39 refill fluids contained cinnamaldehyde at concentrations that are cytotoxic to human embryonic and lung cells in the MTT assay. Cinnamon Ceylon aerosol produced in a cartomizer-style e-cigarette was cytotoxic. Cinnamon Ceylon aerosols and refill fluid aerosols (80% propylene glycol or cinnamaldehyde/propylene glycol) made using a tank/boxmod e-cigarette were more cytotoxic at 5 V than 3 V. Using GC/MS, aerosols produced at 5 V contained 10 additional peaks not present in aerosol generated at 3 V. One of these, 2,3-butandione (diacetyl), was confirmed with an authentic standard. Cinnamaldehyde depolymerised microtubules in human pulmonary fibroblasts. At concentrations that produced no effect in the MTT assay, cinnamaldehyde decreased growth, attachment and spreading; altered cell morphology and motility; increased DNA strand breaks; and increased cell death. At the MTT IC50 concentration, lung cells were unable to recover from cinnamaldehyde after 2 hours of treatment, whereas embryonic cells recovered after 8 hours.

Conclusions Cinnamaldehyde-containing refill fluids and aerosols are cytotoxic, genotoxic and low concentrations adversely affect cell processes and survival. These data indicate that cinnamaldehyde in e-cigarette refill fluids/aerosols may impair homeostasis in the respiratory system.


This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Tobacco Control. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Tobacco Control 2016; 25: ii94-ii102.



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