Effect of e-cigarette flavors on nicotine delivery and puffing topography: results from a randomized clinical trial of daily smokers

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2020 Feb;237(2):491-502. doi: 10.1007/s00213-019-05386-x. Epub 2019 Nov 26.


Rationale: There is limited understanding regarding how various e-cigarette flavorings may influence the behavior of non-regular e-cigarette users who are regular cigarette smokers.

Objectives: To assess differences in nicotine delivery, puffing topography, subjective effects, and user satisfaction from different flavored e-liquids.

Methods: Eighteen daily smokers (average age, 44.1 ± 7.0; 9 males; average CPD, 13.0 ± 5.8) smoked their tobacco cigarettes during an initial visit and returned five times to try an e-cigarette (eGo type) refilled with a nicotine solution (24 mg/ml) of five different flavors: cherry, tobacco, espresso, menthol, and vanilla (randomized order). Assessments at each visit included puffing topography, blood samples for nicotine analysis, and subjective reports of nicotine effects and flavor satisfaction.

Results: Vaping different flavors resulted in different levels of plasma nicotine. The flavor producing the highest plasma nicotine concentration (Cmax) was cherry (median 21.2 ng/ml), which was not significantly different than nicotine delivery from a combustible cigarette (29.2 ng/ml, p > .05). Vanilla e-liquid produced the lowest Cmax (9.7 ng/ml), and participants tended to puff less frequently on vanilla compared to tobacco flavor (p = .013). Flavors did not differ significantly in the speed of nicotine delivery (Tmax). During controlled use, puff duration for all flavors was significantly longer than a combustible cigarette (p < 0.05). After controlling for nicotine delivery, significant differences in flavor enjoyment were detected. Menthol flavored e-liquid was rated as more enjoyable than vanilla and tobacco flavored e-liquids (p < 0.05).

Conclusions: Flavors tested in this study yielded different patterns of nicotine delivery and led to differences in reduction in smoking urges.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: #NCT02575885.

Keywords: E-cigarettes; Electronic cigarettes; Flavors; Nicotine; Vaping; Vaporizers.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Female
  • Flavoring Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Flavoring Agents / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Menthol / administration & dosage
  • Menthol / blood
  • Middle Aged
  • Nicotine / administration & dosage*
  • Nicotine / blood
  • Pilot Projects
  • Random Allocation
  • Smokers / psychology*
  • Taste / drug effects
  • Taste / physiology
  • Vaping / blood
  • Vaping / psychology*


  • Flavoring Agents
  • Menthol
  • Nicotine

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02575885