Monitoring nicotine intake from e-cigarettes: Measurement of parent drug and metabolites in oral fluid and plasma

Esther Papaseit, Magí Farré, Silvia Graziano, Roberta Pacifici, Clara Pérez-Mañá, Oscar García-Algar, Simona Pichini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Electronic cigarettes (e-cig) known as electronic nicotine devices recently gained popularity among smokers. Despite many studies investigating their safety and toxicity, few examined the delivery of e-cig-derived nicotine and its metabolites in alternative biological fluids. We performed a randomized, crossover, and controlled clinical trial in nine healthy smokers. Nicotine (NIC), cotinine (COT), and trans-3′-hydroxycotinine (3-HCOT) were measured in plasma and oral fluid by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry after consumption of two consecutive e-cig administrations or two consecutive tobacco cigarettes. NIC and its metabolites were detected both in oral fluid and plasma following both administration conditions. Concentrations in oral fluid resulted various orders of magnitude higher than those observed in plasma. Oral fluid concentration of tobacco cigarette and e-cig-derived NIC peaked at 15 min after each administration and ranged between 1.0 and 1396 μg/L and from 0.3 to 860 μg/L; those of COT between 52.8 and 110 μg/L and from 33.8 to 94.7 μg/L; and those of 3-HCOT between 12.4 and 23.5 μg/L and from 8.5 to 24.4 μg/L. The oral fluid to plasma concentration ratio of both e-cig- and tobacco cigarette-derived NIC peaked at 15 min after both administrations and correlated with oral fluid NIC concentration. The obtained results support the measurement of NIC and metabolites in oral fluid in the assessment of intake after e-cig use and appear to be a suitable alternative to plasma when monitoring nicotine delivery from e-cig for clinical and toxicological studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-423
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2017


  • cotinine
  • e-cig
  • nicotine
  • oral fluid
  • pharmacokinetics
  • plasma
  • trans-3′-hydroxycotinine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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