Document Type


Original Publication Date


Journal/Book/Conference Title

Scientific Reports



First Page


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Originally published at

Funded in part by the VCU Libraries Open Access Publishing Fund.

Date of Submission

October 2019


Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are an alternate nicotine delivery system that generate a condensation aerosol to be inhaled by the user. The size of the droplets formed in the aerosol can vary and contributes to drug deposition and ultimate bioavailability in the lung. The growing popularity of e-cigarette products has caused an increase in internet sources promoting the use of drugs other than nicotine (DOTNs) in e-cigarettes. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of various e-cigarette and e-liquid modifications, such as coil resistance, battery voltage, and glycol and drug formulation, on the aerosol particle size. E-liquids containing 12 mg/mL nicotine prepared in glycol compositions of 100% propylene glycol (PG), 100% vegetable glycerin (VG), or 50:50 PG:VG were aerosolized at three voltages and three coil resistances. Methamphetamine and methadone e-liquids were prepared at 60 mg/mL in 50:50 PG:VG and all e-liquids were aerosolized onto a 10 stage Micro-Orifice Uniform Deposit Impactor. Glycol deposition correlated with drug deposition, and the majority of particles centered between 0.172–0.5 μm in diameter, representing pulmonary deposition. The 100% PG e-liquid produced the largest aerosol particles and the 100% VG and 50:50 PG:VG e-liquids produced ultra-fine particles <0.3 μm. The presence of ultrafine particles indicates that drugs can be aerosolized and reach the pulmonary alveolar regions, highlighting a potential for abuse and risk of overdose with DOTNs aerosolized in an e-cigarette system.


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VCU Forensic Science Publications