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. 2016 Oct 7;17(1):127.
doi: 10.1186/s12931-016-0447-z.

Basic Science of Electronic Cigarettes: Assessment in Cell Culture and in Vivo Models

Free PMC article

Basic Science of Electronic Cigarettes: Assessment in Cell Culture and in Vivo Models

Pieter S Hiemstra et al. Respir Res. .
Free PMC article


Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes, ECIGs) were introduced into the market a decade ago as an alternative to tobacco smoking. Whether ECIGs are safe and whether they qualify as smoking cessation tool is currently unknown. Their use has markedly expanded in that period, despite the fact that potential toxic effects of the vapour created by the e-cigarette and the nicotine-containing cartridge fluid have been incompletely studied. Marketing targets diverse groups including older smokers but also young people. Whereas the adverse health effects of nicotine inhaled by users of ECIGs has been well documented, less is known about the other components. An increasing number of in vitro and in vivo studies demonstrate a range of adverse effects of both the vapour created by ECIGs as well as the nicotine-containing fluid. Importantly, these studies demonstrate that toxicity from ECIGs, although this may be less than that caused by tobacco products, not only arises from its nicotine content. Furthermore, there are no data on the long-term consequences of ECIG use. The wide range of ECIG products available to consumers and the lack of standardisation of toxicological approaches towards ECIG evaluation complicates the assessment of adverse health effects of their use. Here we review the current data on preclinical studies on ECIGs describing their effects in cell culture and animal models.


Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Electronic cigarette. The cartridge contains a fluid with nicotine, flavours, propylene glycol and water. The heating/atomizer heats the content of the cartridge to create a vapour that can be inhaled through the mouthpiece. The (pressure) sensor detects the airflow when the smoker inhales, and signals the microprocessor to control the heating element and the LED tip. This tip lights up when the smoker inhales to mimic the glow of a burning cigarette. A (rechargeable) battery provides the power

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