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Chemical Research in Toxicology

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Tobacco products -- Additives, Tobacco products -- Chemistry, Electronic cigarettes -- Composition -- Analysis, Toxological chemistry, Tobacco products -- Chemistry


E-liquids usually contain significant nicotine, which will exist primarily in two forms, monoprotonated and free-base, the proportions of which are alterable through the effective pH of the medium. The fraction of nicotine in the free-base form is αfb, with 0 ≤ αfb ≤ 1. When dosed via aerosol, the two nicotine forms have different mechanisms and kinetics of delivery, as well as differing implications for harshness of the inhaled aerosol, so αfb is relevant regarding abuse liability. Previous attempts to determine αfb in electronic cigarette liquids and vapor have been flawed. We employed the exchange-averaged 1H NMR chemical shifts of nicotine to determine αfb in samples of e-liquids. This method is rapid and direct and can also be used with collected aerosol material. The e-liquids tested were found to have 0.03 ≤ αfb ≤ 0.84. The αfb values in collected aerosol liquid samples were highly correlated with those for the parent e-liquids. E-liquids designed to combine high total nicotine level (addictive delivery) with low αfb (for ease of inhalation) are likely to be particularly problematic for public health.


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