NIH Announces NYC High School Student Wins Top Addiction Science Award with Study on Third Hand Nicotine from E-Cigarette Exposure

First place winner of 2014 Addiction Science Award (l-r): Judges and NIDA grantees Dr. Keith Heinzerling and Dr. Mitchell Wong, UCLA; winner Lily Wei Lee; Judge and NIDA grantee Dr. Bridget Freisthler, UCLA; and NIDA’s Dr. Sheri Grabus

First place winner of 2014 Addiction Science Award
(l-r): Judges and NIDA grantees Dr. Keith Heinzerling and Dr. Mitchell Wong, UCLA; winner Lily Wei Lee; Judge and NIDA grantee Dr. Bridget Freisthler, UCLA; and NIDA’s Dr. Sheri Grabus

Lily Wei Lee, a high school senior at Stuyvesant High School in New York City, won the top Addiction Science Award at the 2014 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the world’s largest science competition for high school students. The awards are coordinated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, and Friends of NIDA, a coalition that supports NIDA’s mission.

Her award-winning project, The Assessment of Third Hand Exposure to Nicotine from Electronic Cigarettes, showed that nicotine residue from e-cigarette vapor does in fact stick to surfaces long after e-cigarette users are gone. The amount of residual nicotine depended on the brand used.

Lee took three different brands of e-cigarettes and filled them with varying concentrations of nicotine. To ensure the vapor puffs were consistent, Lee used a syringe. After the vapor dissipated, she found significant increases in the amount of nicotine on surrounding surfaces. Lee now hopes to explore whether e-cigarette usage is also related to increased third hand exposure to cancer-causing agents.

Dr. Nora D. Volkow, Director of the National Insitute on Drug Abuse, said, “Chronic e-cigarette use would be expected to produce even higher levels of third hand nicotine exposure, and it’s unclear how such exposure could impact the health of close family members, friends, and coworkers who are regularly exposed to these environments.”

We congratulate Lee on her award and look forward to reading about her research.