A rapid method for the chromatographic analysis of volatile organic compounds in exhaled breath of tobacco cigarette and electronic cigarette smokers

J Chromatogr A. 2015 Sep 4;1410:51-9. doi: 10.1016/j.chroma.2015.07.094. Epub 2015 Jul 29.


A method for the rapid analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in smoke from tobacco and electronic cigarettes and in exhaled breath of users of these smoking systems has been developed. Both disposable and rechargeable e-cigarettes were considered. Smoke or breath were collected in Bio-VOCs. VOCs were then desorbed in Tenax cartridges which were subsequently analyzed by thermal desorption coupled to gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. The method provides consistent results when comparing the VOC compositions from cigarette smoke and the equivalent exhaled breath of the smokers. The differences in composition of these two sample types are useful to ascertain which compounds are retained in the respiratory system after tobacco cigarette or e-cigarette smoking. Strong differences were observed in the VOC composition of tobacco cigarette smoke and exhaled breath when comparing with those of e-cigarette smoking. The former involved transfers of a much larger burden of organic compounds into smokers, including benzene, toluene, naphthalene and other pollutants of general concern. e-Cigarettes led to strong absorptions of propylene glycol and glycerin in the users of these systems. Tobacco cigarettes were also those showing highest concentration differences between nicotine concentrations in smoke and exhaled breath. The results from disposable e-cigarettes were very similar to those from rechargeable e-cigarettes.

Keywords: Electronic cigarettes; Exhaled breath; Nicotine; Thermal desorption; Tobacco; Volatile organic compounds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Breath Tests
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Electronics
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Humans
  • Nicotine / analysis
  • Smoke / analysis*
  • Smoking
  • Tobacco Products*
  • Tobacco*
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / analysis*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Smoke
  • Volatile Organic Compounds
  • Nicotine