Nicotine and Cotinine Exposure from Electronic Cigarettes: A Population Approach

Nieves Vélez de Mendizábal, David R. Jones, Andy Jahn, Robert R. Bies, Joshua W. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations


Background and Objectives: Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are a recent technology that has gained rapid acceptance. Still, little is known about them in terms of safety and effectiveness. A basic question is how effectively they deliver nicotine; however, the literature is surprisingly unclear on this point. Here, a population pharmacokinetic model was developed for nicotine and its major metabolite cotinine with the aim to provide a reliable framework for the simulation of nicotine and cotinine concentrations over time, based solely on inhalation airflow recordings and individual covariates [i.e., weight and breath carbon monoxide (CO) levels]. Methods: This study included ten adults self-identified as heavy smokers (at least one pack of cigarettes per day). Plasma nicotine and cotinine concentrations were measured at regular 10-min intervals for 90 min while human subjects inhaled nicotine vapor from a modified e-cigarette. Airflow measurements were recorded every 200 ms throughout the session. A population pharmacokinetic model for nicotine and cotinine was developed based on previously published pharmacokinetic parameters and the airflow recordings. All of the analyses were performed with the non-linear mixed-effect modeling software NONMEM<sup>®</sup> version 7.2. Results: The results show that e-cigarettes deliver nicotine effectively, although the pharmacokinetic profiles are lower than those achieved with regular cigarettes. Our pharmacokinetic model effectively predicts plasma nicotine and cotinine concentrations from the inhalation volume, and initial breath CO. Conclusion: E-cigarettes are effective at delivering nicotine. This new pharmacokinetic model of e-cigarette usage might be used for pharmacodynamic analysis where the pharmacokinetic profiles are not available.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)615-626
Number of pages12
JournalClinical Pharmacokinetics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 12 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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