Mainstream Smoke Levels of Volatile Organic Compounds in 50 U.S. Domestic Cigarette Brands Smoked With the ISO and Canadian Intense Protocols

Nicotine Tob Res. 2016 Sep;18(9):1886-94. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntw118. Epub 2016 Apr 25.


Introduction: A significant portion of the increased risk of cancer and respiratory disease from exposure to cigarette smoke is attributed to volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In this study, 21 VOCs were quantified in mainstream cigarette smoke from 50U.S. domestic brand varieties that included high market share brands and 2 Kentucky research cigarettes (3R4F and 1R5F).

Methods: Mainstream smoke was generated under ISO 3308 and Canadian Intense (CI) smoking protocols with linear smoking machines with a gas sampling bag collection followed by solid phase microextraction/gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (SPME/GC/MS) analysis.

Results: For both protocols, mainstream smoke VOC amounts among the different brand varieties were strongly correlated between the majority of the analytes. Overall, Pearson correlation (r) ranged from 0.68 to 0.99 for ISO and 0.36 to 0.95 for CI. However, monoaromatic compounds were found to increase disproportionately compared to unsaturated, nitro, and carbonyl compounds under the CI smoking protocol where filter ventilation is blocked.

Conclusions: Overall, machine generated "vapor phase" amounts (µg/cigarette) are primarily attributed to smoking protocol (e.g., blocking of vent holes, puff volume, and puff duration) and filter ventilation. A possible cause for the disproportionate increase in monoaromatic compounds could be increased pyrolysis under low oxygen conditions associated with the CI protocol.

Implications: This is the most comprehensive assessment of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in cigarette smoke to date, encompassing 21 toxic VOCs, 50 different cigarette brand varieties, and 2 different machine smoking protocols (ISO and CI). For most analytes relative proportions remain consistent among U.S. cigarette brand varieties regardless of smoking protocol, however the CI smoking protocol did cause up to a factor of 6 increase in the proportion of monoaromatic compounds. This study serves as a basis to assess VOC exposure as cigarette smoke is a principle source of overall population-level VOC exposure in the United States.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Humans
  • Kentucky
  • Nicotiana / chemistry*
  • Product Labeling
  • Reference Standards
  • Smoke / analysis
  • Smoking*
  • United States
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / analysis*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Smoke
  • Volatile Organic Compounds