Recent developments in the determination of biomarkers of tobacco smoke exposure in biological specimens: A review

Hernâni Marques, Pedro Cruz-Vicente, Tiago Rosado, Mário Barroso, Luís A. Passarinha, Eugenia Gallardo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Environmental tobacco smoke exposure (ETS) and smoking have been described as the most prevalent factors in the development of certain diseases worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, more than 8 million people die every year due to exposure to tobacco, around 7 million due to direct ETS and the remaining due to exposure to second-hand smoke. Both active and second-hand exposure can be measured and controlled using specific biomarkers of tobacco and its derivatives, allowing the development of more efficient public health policies. Exposure to these compounds can be measured using different methods (involving for instance liquid-or gas-chromatographic procedures) in a wide range of biological specimens to estimate the type and degree of tobacco exposure. In recent years, a lot of research has been carried out using different extraction methods and different analytical equipment; this way, liquid–liquid extraction, solid-phase extraction or even miniaturized procedures have been used, followed by chromatographic analysis coupled mainly to mass spectrometric detection. Through this type of methodologies, second-hand smokers can be distinguished from active smokers, and this is also valid for e-cigarettes and vapers, among others, using their specific biomarkers. This review will focus on recent developments in the determination of tobacco smoke biomarkers, including nicotine and other tobacco alkaloids, specific nitrosamines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, etc. The methods for their detection will be discussed in detail, as well as the potential use of threshold values to distinguish between types of exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1768
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2021


  • Analytical developments
  • Biological specimens
  • Sample preparation
  • Tobacco smoke biomarkers


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