A review of in vitro cigarette smoke exposure systems

Exp Toxicol Pathol. 2013 Nov;65(7-8):1183-93. doi: 10.1016/j.etp.2013.06.001. Epub 2013 Jul 11.


In vitro test methods may be vital in understanding tobacco smoke, the main toxicants responsible for adverse health effects, and elucidating disease mechanisms. There is a variety of 'whole smoke' exposure systems available for the generation, dilution and delivery of tobacco smoke in vitro; these systems can be procured commercially from well-known suppliers or can be bespoke set-ups. These exposure technologies aim to ensure that there are limited changes in the tobacco smoke aerosol from generation to exposure. As the smoke aerosol is freshly generated, interactions in the smoke fractions are captured in any subsequent in vitro analysis. Of the commercially available systems, some have been characterised more than others in terms of published scientific literature and developed biological endpoints. Others are relatively new to the scientific field and are still establishing their presence. In addition, bespoke systems are widely used and offer a more flexible approach to the challenges of tobacco smoke exposure. In this review, the authors present a summary of the major tobacco smoke exposure systems available and critically review their function, set-up and application for in vitro exposure scenarios. All whole smoke exposure systems have benefits and limitations, often making it difficult to make comparisons between set-ups and the data obtained from such diverse systems. This is where exposure and dose measurements can add value and may be able to provide a platform on which comparisons can be made. The measurement of smoke dose, as an emerging field of research, is therefore also discussed and how it may provide valuable and additional data to support existing whole smoke exposure set-ups and aid validation efforts.

Keywords: ALI; BAT; Borgwaldt; Borgwaldt RM20S Smoking Machine; British American Tobacco; Burghart; Burghart Mimic Smoker MSB-01; COPD; CORESTA; CSE; CULTEX(®); Cooperation Centre for Scientific Research Relative to Tobacco; CuO; DMSO; DNPH; Dosimetry; Exposure systems; HPLC; IARC; In vitro; International Agency for Research on Cancer; MAPK; MSB-01; PAH; PBS; QCM; RFS; RM20S; TSNA; Tobacco smoke; VC 10; Vitrocell VC 10 Smoking Robot; Vitrocell(®); Whole smoke; air–liquid interface; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; cigarette smoke extract; copper oxide nanoparticles; dimethyl sulphoxide; dinitrophenylhydrazine; high performance liquid chromatography; mitogen-activated protein kinases; phosphate buffered saline; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; quartz crystal microbalance; radial flow system; tobacco specific nitrosamines.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols / adverse effects
  • Animals
  • Automation, Laboratory / instrumentation*
  • Automation, Laboratory / methods*
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Smoke / adverse effects*
  • Tobacco


  • Aerosols
  • Smoke