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Researchers who have developed a secondhand tobacco smoke sensor say their product could be used to enforce no-smoking regulations.

The product’s developers, from Dartmouth College, say it can also detect thirdhand smoke, residual nicotine left on clothing, furniture, car seats and other material. They describe their product in the current issue of Nicotine and Tobacco Research. reports the prototype of the product is smaller and lighter than a cellphone. The researchers want to convert it into a device that is wearable, affordable and reusable.

In lab tests, the device was able to reliably measure nicotine vapor molecules in the air. It uses a sensor chip to record real-time data. It shows when and where smoke exposure occurred and how many cigarettes were smoked. The researchers plan to start clinical studies this summer.

The device could be used in rental cars, apartment buildings, restaurants and hotel rooms, the developers say. They point out that current secondhand smoke sensors only provide an average exposure in a limited area, over several days or weeks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes, “There is no risk-free level of contact with secondhand smoke; even brief exposure can be harmful to health.”

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