Effect of pH on nicotine absorption and side effects produced by aerosolized nicotine

S. G. Burch, L. P. Gann, K. M. Olsen, P. J. Anderson, F. C. Hiller, M. L. Erbland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Nicotine aerosol could prove to be a useful aid to smoking cessation. In previous studies subjects complained of unpleasant side effects that seemed to be due to local irritation from the inhaled aerosol. The purpose of the current study was to compare nicotine absorption and side effects from inhalation of nicotine aerosols of varying pH. Ten healthy smokers inhaled aerosols made from nicotine solutions with a pH of 11, 7.5, or 5.6. The measured particle size was 8.5 μm MMAD. We measured serial plasma nicotine concentrations and evaluated 4 side effects: cough, throat burning, dizziness, and salivation. Increasing pH was associated with a higher mean rise in plasma nicotine concentration. However, there was no difference in the incidence of side effects seen with the three aerosols. We conclude that a more alkaline aerosol enhances absorption from the respiratory tract. The large particle size may be responsible for the apparent irritant effects of the aerosol and the relatively large dose required to achieve levels comparable to cigarette smoking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-52
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Aerosol Medicine: Deposition, Clearance, and Effects in the Lung
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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