GC–MS analysis of e-cigarette refill solutions: A comparison of flavoring composition between flavor categories

Erna J.Z. Krüsemann*, Jeroen L.A. Pennings, Johannes W.J.M. Cremers, Frank Bakker, Sanne Boesveldt, Reinskje Talhout

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Electronic cigarette refill solutions (e-liquids) are available in various flavor descriptions that can be categorized as fruit, tobacco, and more. Flavors increase sensory appeal, thereby stimulating e-cigarette use, and flavoring ingredients can contribute to e-cigarette toxicity. We aim to inform toxicologists, sensory scientists, and regulators by determining flavoring compounds in e-liquids with various flavors, and compare results between flavor categories. Methods: Gas chromatography - mass spectrometry (GC–MS) was used to identify 79 flavorings in 320 e-liquids, classified in 15 flavor categories. Ten flavorings highly prevalent in e-liquids according to information from manufacturers were quantified. Flavoring prevalence was defined as the number of e-liquids with the flavoring as percentage of the total number of e-liquids. The method was validated in terms of specificity, linearity, repeatability, recovery, and sensitivity. Results: The mean number of flavorings per e-liquid was 6 ± 4. Flavoring prevalence was highest for vanillin (creamy/vanilla flavor), ethyl butyrate (ethereal/fruity), and cis-3-hexenol (fresh/green). Based on similarities in flavoring prevalence, four clusters of categories were distinguished: (1) fruit, candy, alcohol, beverages; (2) dessert, coffee/tea, nuts, sweets; (3) menthol/mint; and (4) spices, tobacco, and unflavored. Categories from cluster 4 generally had less flavorings per e-liquid than fruit, candy, alcohol, beverages (cluster 1) and dessert (cluster 2) (p < 0.05). Flavoring concentrations varied between e-liquids within the categories. Conclusions: We evaluated flavoring compositions of 320 e-liquids using a simple GC–MS method. Flavoring prevalence was similar within four clusters of typically fresh/sweet, warm/sweet, fresh/cooling, and non-sweet flavor categories. To compare flavoring concentrations between individual flavor categories, additional research is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113364
JournalJournal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sept 2020


  • e-Liquids
  • Electronic cigarettes
  • Flavor compounds
  • Flavor ingredients
  • Flavors
  • Gas chromatography - mass spectrometry


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