Strides made with new smoking sensor

For researchers at Dartmouth College, a spidey sense isn’t the only intuit tingling.

According to the latest logs, the Darmouth cohort has successfully created a first-of-its-kind secondhand tobacco smoke sensor capable of recording data in real time. In a climate where secondhand smoke — a perpetrator of cancer and other congestive ailments — affects an estimated 88 million nonsmoking Americans, 54 percent of which are children aged three years and up, the device could put the kibosh to one of the public’s most notorious health threats.

"This is a leap forward in secondhand smoke exposure detection technology," said Chemistry Professor Joseph BelBruno, whose lab conducted the research, in a news release.

Researchers aim to condense the prototype into an accessory of sorts — a wearable, sleek and affordable aide in enforcing no smoking regulations. The reusable gadget is said to also detect thirdhand smoke, known as nicotine off-gassing, from clothing, furniture, car seats and other materials bearing the brunt of cigarette butts. As such, regulators could employ the device in imposing smoking bans on rental cars, hotel rooms, apartment buildings, restaurants and other venues.

Other perks to the sensor include: “It also could help convince smokers that smoking in other rooms, out of windows and using air fresheners still exposes children and other nonsmokers to secondhand smoke. The device would be more accurate and less expensive than current secondhand smoke sensors, which provide only an average exposure in a limited area over several days or weeks.”

Dartmouth College representatives note that a patent for the technology is pending. Funding for the study came from the American Academy of Pediatrics Julius B. Richmond Center of Excellence via the Flight Attendants Medical Research Institute, and by the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.  

The study was published in the latest edition of the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.