Discriminating nicotine and non-nicotine containing e-liquids using infrared spectroscopy

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In a few countries, including Belgium, nicotine-containing e-cigarettes and e-liquids are considered medicines, and therefore cannot freely be sold, but should be distributed in a pharmacy. The fact that in the neighbouring countries these products are freely available, poses a problem for custom personnel, the more the nicotine content of the products is not always labelled, especially when they are bought through internet. Therefore there is a need for easy-to-use equipment and methods to perform a first on site screening of intercepted samples, both for border control as to check label compliance of the sample.

The use of attenuated total reflectance-infrared spectroscopy (ATR-IR) and near infrared spectroscopy (NIR), combined with chemometrics was evaluated for the discrimination between nicotine containing and non-nicotine containing samples.

It could be concluded that both ATR-IR and NIR could be used for the discrimination when combined with the appropriate chemometric techniques. The presented techniques do not need sample preparation and result in models with a minimum of false negative samples. If a large enough training set can be established the interpretation can be fully automated, making the presented approach suitable for on-site screening of e-liquid samples.

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