Characterization of the Spatial and Temporal Dispersion Differences Between Exhaled E-Cigarette Mist and Cigarette Smoke

Nicotine Tob Res. 2019 Sep 19;21(10):1371-1377. doi: 10.1093/ntr/nty121.


Introduction: There are fundamental differences between electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and conventional cigarette product categories with regards to potential environmental exposures, notably that e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco or generate side-stream emissions. Here we assess the spatial and temporal patterns of exhaled e-cigarette aerosol at a bystander's position, and compare it with conventional cigarette smoke emissions.

Methods: Smokers were asked to use e-cigarettes or smoke conventional cigarettes in a room-simulating chamber. Volunteers used the products at different distances from a heated mannequin, representing a bystander, and under different room ventilation rates. Aerosol particle concentrations and size distributions at the bystander's position were measured.

Results: For both product categories, the particle concentrations registered following each puff were in the same order of magnitude. However, for e-cigarettes the particle concentration returned rapidly to background values within seconds; for conventional cigarettes it increased with successive puffs, returning to background levels after 30-45 minutes. Unlike for the e-cigarette devices tested, such temporal variation was dependent on the room ventilation rate. Particle size measurements showed that exhaled e-cigarette particles were smaller than those emitted during smoking conventional cigarettes and evaporated almost immediately after exhalation, thus affecting the removal of particles through evaporation rather than displacement by ventilation.

Conclusions: Significant differences between emissions from the tested e- and conventional cigarettes are reported. Exhaled e-cigarette particles are liquid droplets evaporating rapidly; conventional cigarette smoke particles are far more stable and linger.

Implications: • Several factors potentially influencing particle behavior after exhalation of e-cigarette aerosols or emitted during smoking conventional cigarettes were studied.• Differences in particle size between those exhaled following use of e-cigarettes and those emitted during smoking of conventional cigarettes were observed.• E-cigarette particle concentrations decreased rapidly following exhalation due to evaporation.• The removal of particles following smoking conventional cigarettes was much slower and was dependent on the room ventilation rate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols / analysis
  • Cigarette Smoking*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Exhalation
  • Humans
  • Particle Size
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / analysis*
  • Vaping*


  • Aerosols
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution