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New sensor measures secondhand smoke exposure in real time


March 20, 2013

Scientists have created what they claim is the world's first secondhand tobacco smoke sensor that records data in real time 
(Photo: Shutterstock)

Scientists have created what they claim is the world's first secondhand tobacco smoke sensor that records data in real time (Photo: Shutterstock)

While the detrimental effects of inhaling secondhand tobacco smoke are well-documented, it can be difficult to determine just how much of that smoke people are exposed to. After all, we know that smokers inhale smoke from each of their cigarettes, but what percentage of that smoke reaches their family members or co-workers? Scientists at New Hampshire’s Dartmouth College have created a portable sensor, in order to find out.

Currently in prototype form, the device is claimed to be “the first ever secondhand tobacco smoke sensor that records data in real time.” It uses polymer films to measure ambient nicotine vapor molecules, along with a chip that records the data. Utilizing that technology, it not only measures the amount of smoke in its immediate environment (right down to the number of cigarettes smoked), but also keeps a record of when and where the exposure took place.

It can also detect and measure thirdhand smoke, in the form of nicotine that off-gasses from things like clothing and furniture upholstery.

In its current form, the sensor is slightly smaller and lighter than a smartphone. The scientists hope to develop it into a smaller wearable device that’s both affordable and reusable. According to the college, existing secondhand smoke sensors are relatively inaccurate, expensive, and “provide only an average exposure in a limited area over several days or weeks.”

Tests of the new sensor in a lab-based “smoking chamber” have reportedly gone well, with plans calling for clinical trials to follow soon. Ultimately, it is hoped that the device could be used to help enforce smoking bans in public places, and to show smokers how much of their smoke reaches people such as their children.

A paper on the sensor was recently published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

Source: Dartmouth College

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth
1 Comment

my at best 7 litre lung capacity is less now as a smoker, but nothing comared to a 3 litre automobile running at 2500rpm. I can appreciate not smoking in a restaurant or elevator- makes me sick too(unless I'm smoking). Is this for future lawsuits on the interstate system?

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