An emerging expert on e-cigarettes and their impact on health is calling for research on the automated dripping devices now used by some vapers.

An article authored by Paul Harrell, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and researcher in the Community Health and Research division of EVMS Pediatrics, concludes that research is urgently needed on automated dripping devices. The article was published July 22 in the international peer-reviewed journal Tobacco Control.

The standard e-cigarette vaporizes a liquid solution in a cartridge that’s delivered to a heating coil via saturated wicking material. However, dripping is a method of vaping that involves applying the liquid directly onto the heated coil. This creates thicker clouds of vapor, provides a stronger throat hit and, users say, enhances the e-cigarette’s flavor.

But dripping can be time-consuming and inconvenient, requiring the user to re-apply liquid every few puffs. To make the process less of a hassle, e-cigarette users and manufacturers have started developing automated dripping devices (ADDs). These new technologies are known as rebuildable dripping-tank atomizers, drip boxes and bottomfeeders, also known as squonk mods.

“We learned recently that e-cigarette dripping is more common among adolescents than was previously thought,” Dr. Harrell says. “ADDs may be one reason why.” A study published earlier this year in the journal Pediatrics says that one in four teens who use e-cigarettes have tried dripping.

Dr. Harrell was assisted on the article by Thomas Eissenberg, PhD, one of the nation’s leading e-cigarette researchers who is based at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

With little research yet conducted on the health impact of e-cigarettes, Dr. Harrell says even less is known about the health impact of dripping and the various new devices designed to accommodate it.

“Current measures appear inadequate due to the lack of universal and clear definitions of different e-cigarette systems,” his article states. “The resulting ambiguity is a challenge to research and regulatory efforts, as well as to consumers attempting to make informed decisions regarding product purchasing.”