Background: Flavoring chemicals, or flavorants, have been used in electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) since their inception; however, little is known about their toxicological effects. Free radicals present in e-cigarette aerosols have been shown to induce oxidative stress resulting in damage to proliferation, survival, and inflammation pathways in the cell. Aerosols generated from e-liquid solvents alone contain high levels of free radicals but few studies have looked at how these toxins are modulated by flavorants. Objectives: We investigated the effects of different flavorants on free radical production in e-cigarette aerosols. Methods: Free radicals generated from 49 commercially available e-liquid flavors were captured and analyzed using electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR). The flavorant composition of each e-liquid was analyzed by gas chromatography mass spectroscopy (GCMS). Radical production was correlated with flavorant abundance. Ten compounds were identified and analyzed for their impact on free radical generation. Results: Nearly half of the flavors modulated free radical generation. Flavorants with strong correlations included β-damascone, δ-tetradecalactone, γ-decalactone, citral, dipentene, ethyl maltol, ethyl vanillin, ethyl vanillin PG acetal, linalool, and piperonal. Dipentene, ethyl maltol, citral, linalool, and piperonal promoted radical formation in a concentration-dependent manner. Ethyl vanillin inhibited the radical formation in a concentration dependent manner. Free radical production was closely linked with the capacity to oxidize biologically-relevant lipids. Conclusions: Our results suggest that flavoring agents play an important role in either enhancing or inhibiting the production of free radicals in flavored e-cigarette aerosols. This information is important for developing regulatory strategies aimed at reducing potential harm from e-cigarettes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)72-79
Number of pages8
JournalFree Radical Biology and Medicine
StatePublished - May 20 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology (medical)


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