[Comparison of the aerosol produced by electronic cigarettes with conventional cigarettes and the shisha]

Rev Mal Respir. 2013 Nov;30(9):752-7. doi: 10.1016/j.rmr.2013.03.003. Epub 2013 Apr 17.
[Article in French]


In previous studies of the smoke from regular cigarettes and water pipes, we measured aerosol particle sizes in three streams; S1, inhaled by the smoker, S2, released by the device itself and S3, exhaled by the smoker. We used an electrostatic low-pressure impactor (ELPI), giving particle size distributions in real time and calculated median diameters, D50, and dispersion (σg). This allowed us to predict airway deposition. In addition, the aerosol particle half-life in the air was used as a measure of the risk to others from passive smoking. With the same equipment, we measured the particle sizes and persistence in air of the liquid aerosol generated by e-cigarettes (Cigarettec®) containing water, propylene glycol and flavorings with or without nicotine. Aerosol generation was triggered by a syringe or by the inspiration of volunteer smokers. The D50 data obtained in S1, were 0.65 μm with nicotine and 0.60 μm without nicotine. Deposition in the airways could then be calculated: 26% of the total would deposit, of which 14% would reach the alveoli. These data are close to those found with regular cigarettes. For S3, D50 data were 0.34 μm and 0.29 μm with or without nicotine. The half-life in air of the S3 stream was 11 seconds due to a rapid evaporation. The-e-cigarette aerosol, as measured here, is made of particles bigger than those of cigarette and water pipe aerosols. Their deposition in the lung depends on their fate in the airways, which is unknown. Contrary to tobacco smoke, which has a half-life in air of 19 to 20 minutes, the risk of passive "smoking" exposure from e-cigarettes is modest.

Keywords: Aerosol; Aérosol; E-cigarette; Electronic cigarette; Nicotine; Particle sizes; Passive smoking; Tabagisme passif; Tailles particulaires.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • English Abstract

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Nicotine / administration & dosage
  • Particle Size
  • Risk
  • Smoke / analysis*
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Tobacco / adverse effects*
  • Tobacco Products / adverse effects*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects*


  • Aerosols
  • Smoke
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution
  • Nicotine