Dr. Ana María Rule, an assistant professor in the Johns Hopkins department of environmental health and engineering (EHE), has been awarded a $288,616, two-year grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to assess exposure to metals from e-cigarettes, including new “pod” devices such as Juul. EHE is a cross-divisional department that bridges the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering.
For her study, Dr. Rule and her team will try to understand the role of metal heating components of e-cigarettes on the transfer of metals into the aerosol, by analyzing metal concentrations in e-liquid before it is in contact with heating coil, and in the aerosol generated. Dr. Rule and her team will recruit e-cigarette users, cigarette smokers, dual users (use both e-cigarettes and combustible tobacco products), and non-users/smokers. All participants will answer a detailed questionnaire and samples of blood, urine, saliva, and exhaled breath will be collected to measure and compare metal levels within and between groups. For e-cigarette users, samples of their e-liquid before use, after heating with the coil, and vapor generated will also be collected to understand the transfer of metals during e-cigarette use.
This study will generate information needed to inform policy-level interventions for e-cigarette regulation as well as to plan future studies on the health effects of e-cigarette use.
While evidence suggests that e-cigarettes generate lower concentrations of certain contaminants than traditional cigarettes, Dr. Rule and others have shown that e-cigarettes may expose users to concerning concentrations of toxic metals. In the U.S., e-cigarette use is rising among young people as cigarettes smoking rates decline.
Dr. Rule’s research focuses on exposure to air pollutants.