MadSci Network: Chemistry

Re: how do I measure tar and nicotine

Date: Fri Feb 22 11:08:03 2002
Posted By: Jerry Franzen, Faculty, Chemistry, Thomas More College
Area of science: Chemistry
ID: 1009831762.Ch

A complete answer to your question might require more information from you 
OR someone with more expertise to construct the answer.  But I'll make an 
attempt at it.

I presume that when you use the term "cartridge filter system" you mean 
the usual filter found at the end of a "filter" cigarette.  My answer will 
also require that you have a balance available. I also presume that when 
you say that you want to measure the amount of nicotine and tar trapped 
that you are just interested in the total amount of the two and not the 
individual amounts of these two items.  The individual amounts would 
require more sophisticated techniques and more expertise than I have.

So here goes. Ideally one would like to determine the mass of the filter 
system before any smoke passed through it and then determine the mass 
after all of the smoke passed through it.  The difference between these 
two would be the amount of material trapped.  In this way, you would be 
determining the amount of all the material trapped which might be more 
that just the nicotine and tar.

Unfortunately one cannot separate the filter from the cigarette to get its 
mass and then reattach it, so that the smoke from the cigarette can be 
channeled through it.  I suggest that you determine the average mass of an 
unused filter by cutting the filter off of several unsmoked cigarettes.
get the mass of each filter (maybe 10 filters), sum the masses and divide 
the sum by the number of filters used.

Then you would somehow (see below) "smoke" a number of cigarettes (again 
maybe 10)OF THE SAME BRAND, cut the filters from whatever is left of the 
smoked cigarettes and weigh these, get the average and subtract the 
average mass of an unused filter from the average mass of a used filter.

Of course, I do not advocate you or anyone else actually smoking the 
cigarettes.  You would need some way of drawing a SLOW stream of air 
through each cigatette while it is lit.  In the laboratory, I would use an 
aspirator system attached to a water outlet.  If you have one available to 
you AND it is in a well ventilated area, that could be your artificial way 
of "smoking" the cigarettes.  You might be able to rig up something with 
an OLD vacuum cleaner that had a hose (remember a SLOW stream of air).  
All of that smoke would probably not be good for a vacuum cleaner that you 
would want to use again as a vacuum cleaner.

If you would want to compare brands, you would have to follow this whole 
procedure for each brand, since the filters on different brands might have 
different average masses.     

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