U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Through the E-Cigarette Looking Glass: The Impact of Vaping Ethanol on DUI Investigations

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2018, $517,961)

Electronic cigarettes have been shown to produce ultra-fine aerosol particles facilitating the absorption of drugs into the bloodstream. E-cigarettes are advertised to be a healthier alternative to cigarette smoking, but current generations are customizable, opening an avenue for abuse potential with Drugs Other Than Nicotine (DOTNs). E-cigarette models continue to evolve, allowing users to vape a wider variety of substances, such as waxes, resins, and solid plant materials and to also conceal the devices more effectively. Recent publications have also demonstrated e-liquids to contain a range of ethanol concentrations, as high as 23% ethanol. The chemical components of e-liquids may interfere with the breath test devices and the typical wait period meant to allow ethanol in the mouth to re-absorb may not be sufficient to eliminate interferences for the breath analysis. Additionally, vaping high concentrations of ethanol may alter the traditional model for absorption and distribution understood for drinking ethanol. This research proposes to evaluate the impact of vaping ethanol on two types of roadside field sobriety tests for assessing alcohol in breath: a preliminary breath test device and an evidentiary breath test device. A collaboration with the Virginia Department of Forensic Science and the VCU Police Department will facilitate the administration of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests and breath analyses. Blood, urine, and oral fluid will be collected and analyzed in order to evaluate the correlation of ethanol biomarkers and impact of vaping and any influence to impairment from vaping ethanol. Finally, continual evolution of e-cigarette devices and vaping products will be monitored and characterized as they continue to be promoted on internet sites as effective devices for consuming DOTNs. The results of this research will support the collection and interpretation of evidence performed roadside by law enforcement officers and will support forensic toxicologists as they testify.

This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law, and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14).


Date Created: September 27, 2018