Free Radical Production and Characterization of Heat-Not-Burn Cigarettes in Comparison to Conventional and Electronic Cigarettes

Zachary T. Bitzer, Reema Goel, Neil Trushin, Joshua Muscat, John P. Richie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


With conventional cigarettes, the burning cone reaches temperatures of >900 °C, resulting in the production of numerous toxicants and significant levels of highly reactive free radicals. In attempts to eliminate combustion while still delivering nicotine and flavorings, a newer alternative tobacco product has emerged known as "heat-not-burn"(HnB). These products heat tobacco to temperatures of 250-350 °C depending on the device allowing for the volatilization of nicotine and flavorants while potentially limiting the production of combustion-related toxicants. To better understand how the designs of these new products compare to conventional cigarettes and different styles of electronic cigarettes (e-cigs), we measured and partially characterized their production of free radicals. Smoke or aerosols were trapped by a spin trap phenyl-N-tert-butylnitrone (PBN) and analyzed for free radicals using electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR). Free radical polarity was assessed by passing the aerosol or smoke through either a polar or nonpolar trap prior to being spin trapped with PBN. Particulate-phase radicals were detected only for conventional cigarettes. Gas-phase free radicals were detected in smoke/aerosol from all products with levels for HnB (IQOS, Glo) (12 pmol/puff) being similar to e-cigs (Juul, SREC, box mod e-cig) and hybrid devices (Ploom) (5-40 pmol/puff) but 50-fold lower than conventional cigarettes (1R6F). Gas phase radicals differed in polarity with HnB products and conventional cigarettes producing more polar radicals compared to those produced from e-cigs. Free radical production should be considered in evaluating the toxicological profile of nicotine delivery products and identification of the radicals is of paramount importance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1882-1887
Number of pages6
JournalChemical research in toxicology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 20 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Toxicology


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