The proposed research aims to harness complementary expertise in the Universities of Abertay and St Andrews in order to address the origins of toxicants in emissions from personal nicotine vapourisers (e-cigarettes). Public health policy in the UK encourages the use of e-cigarettes as aids to quitting smoking whereas most other countries adopt a more cautious approach given the very small database on emissions and little theoretical underpinning to predictive models for long-term health effects. The major ingredients in e-cigarette liquids are nicotine and common foodstuffs (such as propylene glycol, glycerol, water, and flavourings. The research will focus on using model systems to identify reaction pathways from these precursors to new potentially hazardous compounds as a result of processes such as oxidation, dehydration and glycation during the heating cycle that undergoes the Maillard reaction. The University of Abertay specialises in modelling changes in food chemistry and hosts some of the advanced equipment necessary for characterising toxic compounds and their precursors. The behaviour of carcinogens in tobacco smoke and vapour is a specialism at the University of St Andrews.
Despite the importance of e-cigarettes to UK policy for smoking reduction no UK university has a research lab committed to studying the emissions from novel nicotine delivery devices. A combined Abertay-St Andrews approach could occupy this niche and provide the essential data for modelling the pathways to toxicant formation and assessing exposure-related inhalation risks. Comparisons with tobacco smoke emissions will enable the lay public to evaluate the relative risks.