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Chasing the Electronic Cigarette Dragon - Characterizing the Evolution and Impact of Design and Content

NCJ Number
Michelle Peace; Justin L. Poklis; Joseph Turner
Date Published
September 2018
20 pages
The reported research was designed to add to information on the nature of drug use, abuse, and overdose cases in which electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) were used to deliver an illicit drug.

Current and previous research findings by this research team are included in this report to address 1) the characteristics of new models of electronic cigarettes and popular customizations; 2) the characteristics of e-liquids purchased over the counter or the internet; and 3) development of a model for the characterization of the particle-size distribution in aerosols. The project determined that fourth-generation e-cig products have evolved to facilitate the aerosolization of drugs from products that are not liquid, but are designed for waxes, dabs, and solid plant materials. E-liquids, semi-solids, and solid materials used in e-cigs can contain dangerous DOTNs, such as synthetic cannabinoids. Evidence indicates that any drug that can be made liquid is being used in e-cigs, including natural products considered "legal highs." The majority of the particles' distribution for nicotine was 0.172-1.0 mm, correlating with deposition in the pulmonary region. Mean particle size of a nicotine aerosol was 0.3 mm, similar to traditional cigarettes. No statistical difference of MMAD and particle-size distribution was found between different common voltages and coil resistances. Methamphetamine and methadone e-liquids generated similar particle-size distribution to nicotine. Methodologies used to obtain these findings are described. 12 figures, 1 table, and a listing of project-related scientific papers, invited talks, and media engagements