Does 'Dry Hit' vaping of vitamin E acetate contribute to EVALI? Simulating toxic ketene formation during e-cigarette use

PLoS One. 2020 Sep 3;15(9):e0238140. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0238140. eCollection 2020.


Vitamin E acetate (VEA) is strongly linked to the outbreak of electronic-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI). It has been proposed that VEA decomposition to ketene-a respiratory poison that damages lungs at low ppm levels-may play a role in EVALI. However, there is no information available on the temperature at which VEA decomposes and how this correlates with the vaping process. We have studied the temperature-dependent kinetics of VEA decomposition using quantum chemical and statistical mechanical modelling techniques, developing a chemical kinetic model of the vaping process. This model predicts that, under typical vaping conditions, the use of VEA contaminated e-cigarette products is unlikely to produce ketene at harmful levels. However, at the high temperatures encountered at low e-cigarette product levels, which produce 'dry hits', ketene concentrations are predicted to reach acutely toxic levels in the lungs (as high as 30 ppm). We therefore hypothesize that dry hit vaping of e-cigarette products containing VEA contributes to EVALI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ethylenes / chemistry
  • Ethylenes / metabolism*
  • Ethylenes / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Ketones / chemistry
  • Ketones / metabolism*
  • Ketones / toxicity
  • Kinetics
  • Lung Injury / chemically induced
  • Lung Injury / pathology*
  • Temperature
  • Vaping / adverse effects*
  • Vitamin E / chemistry
  • Vitamin E / metabolism*


  • Ethylenes
  • Ketones
  • Vitamin E
  • ketene

Grant support

This work was supported through the Australian Research Council Future Fellowships scheme, FT130101304.