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Researchers call for user behaviour studies before lab testing for e-cigarettes

July 20, 2022

Photo: iStock

Collecting real-world human puffing behaviour may lead to better predictions of human yields of e-cigarette emissions and improved risk assessments to predict tobacco harm reduction potential, a new research paper has suggested.

Published in a special edition of Drug Testing and Analysis, the paper explains how caution should be applied when using standard regimes when testing e-cigarette emissions without determining user puffing data, as it can often result in misrepresentation of exposure levels to harmful emissions.

E-cigarette emissions are tested by both academics and e-cigarette manufacturers to assess the levels and variability of constituents of interest in the aerosol. When generating and sampling e-cigarette aerosol for analysis, one option is to use a standard puffing regimen or methodology, which helps to compare data directly between manufacturers in a reproducible manner.

The paper, which includes a review of available scientific literature and expert opinions, details how standard puffing regimes are applied, how real-life puffing topography is measured in users, and differences between the two. It goes on to make the case that, to undertake an accurate assessment, it is better to assess use in people before designing laboratory studies.

“We recommend to our customers that scientific programs of work are designed so that clinical studies are carried out to determine actual user behavior, prior to undertaking the emissions testing phases,” said Chris Allen, chief executive officer at contract research organization Broughton and co-author of the study.

“We understand that it is not always feasible to undertake upfront user testing within tight regulatory timeframes. However, our aim is to raise awareness across the industry, both with manufacturers and regulators, of this opportunity to improve the way in which e-cigarettes are assessed.”

The paper, E-cigarette puffing topography: The importance of assessing user behavior to inform emissions testing, has been authored by Rhys Wadkin and Chris Allen of Broughton and Ian M. Fearon of whatIF? Consulting Ltd.

“Carrying out clinical studies earlier improves outcomes for all parties,” added Fearon. “Taking this approach means manufacturers can better assess the risk reduction potential of their e-cigarette product in comparison with combustible tobacco products. Regulators and consumers benefit from more accurate information on the relative level of risk presented by a particular product.”