Date of Thesis

Spring 2021


Electronic cigarettes better known as e-cigarettes have been consistently rising in popularity with new products entering the market daily. E-cigarettes function by vaporizing a liquid composed of propylene glycol, glycerin, benzoic acid, nicotine, and flavor additives with the use of a metallic heating element. This vapor produced is then inhaled by the user. The composition of this liquid is critical to discovering the possible health effects.

This study investigates the presence and concentrations of heavy metals in the e-liquid before and after vaping. An ICP-MS was used because of its ability to scan several metals rapidly and its high sensitivity. In the analysis, it was found that there was a statistically significant increase in the concentration of chromium and nickel. The chromium concentration for JUUL’s Virginia Tobacco flavor increased slightly from 122 to 128 ppb, while the nickel concentration increased from 54 to 97 ppb both of which are statistically significant increases.

With very little regulation or oversight of the e-cigarette industry as a whole, and with no reporting requirements for labels of e-liquid content, manufacturers are frequently changing their formulations, even for the same product. JUUL has historically had issues controlling the quality of their product so it was not surprising to discover that while running experiments there was a statistically significant difference between batches of e-liquid purchased almost one year apart. Specifically, there was a decrease in concentrations of magnesium, iron, nickel, copper, zinc, and lead analyzed from the experiments run on November 04, 2020 and December 09, 2019. This is likely due to the fact that Altria, a large tobacco company, bought 30% of JUUL’s stocks, which gave them the power and know how to get their product’s quality under control. For example, the zinc concentration on December 09, 2019 was 195,000 ppb and on November 04, 2020 the concentration dropped to 9,690 ppb.


Electronic Cigarettes, JUUL, Heavy Metals, Vaping, e-cigarette, e-cig

Access Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering


Chemical Engineering

Minor, Emphasis, or Concentration


First Advisor

Dabrina D Dutcher

Second Advisor

Timothy Raymond