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While some argue that a gradual transition from traditional cigarette usage to electronic vaping devices could have a positive impact on public health, vaping does not come without issue. As of 2021, data suggests that around 4.5% of US adults aged 18 and over use electronic cigarettes regularly, with vape usage rising to 11% among US adults aged 18 – 24

With both the availability and variety of e‑cigarette products increasing in recent years, concerns regarding vaping in public and private spaces have become more apparent. While rules prohibiting the use of e‑cigarettes have been introduced in many states and municipalities, actively detecting and deterring vaping in private properties can be challenging.

To effectively address these concerns and maintain compliance with relevant regulations and laws, many business owners and facility managers have begun using specialized vape sensors and vape detection systems. By providing live notifications and audible alerts, vape detectors show promise in helping teams identify and deter unwanted vaping incidents.

However, to make the most effective use of vape monitors and e‑cigarette detectors, facility managers and business owners must understand the abilities and limitations of these tools. To support stakeholders in this pursuit, this guide will provide a comprehensive overview of vape alarms, including crucial insights regarding the operation and accuracy of modern devices.

What are vape detectors?

Vape detectors are specialized sensors designed to detect the presence of vaping and often smoking in areas in which these acts are prohibited. While multiple types of vape alarms are available to business owners and facility managers, most devices function in a similar way, with sensors configured to identify specific particulates associated with vaping.

Vape sensors and tobacco detectors are commonly installed in private businesses, colleges, schools and similar locations in which the acts of smoking and vaping are prohibited by law. The deployment of vape smoke detectors is intended not only to support facility managers in better identifying and addressing vaping incidents but also to act as a visible vaping deterrent. 

Advanced vape detection for your building

  • Detects vape, smoke and chemicals

  • Alerts you in real-time of anomalies

  • Simple integration with existing systems

  • Maintains privacy in areas such as bathrooms

How do vape detectors work?

Vape detectors work by continuously monitoring the air in a specific environment for signs of certain chemicals and particulate matter associated with vaping. Most vape sensors operate by measuring the concentration of vaping particles in the air and then comparing these values to normal air quality data to determine whether vaping is taking place.

If the detected concentration of vaping particles surpasses a predetermined threshold, alerts will be sent to stakeholders remotely requesting a response. In addition, audible alarms may be triggered to warn offenders of their infractions and highlight the event’s location.

Common types of sensors used in vape detection systems include:

  • Particulate sensors - Laser scattering technology is used to detect vape aerosols suspended in the air, including fine vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol and nicotine particles, the presence of which will automatically trigger the sensor system’s alarms.

  • Gas sensors - The presence of specific gasses associated with vaping and smoking are detected either by changes in electrical resistance or the absorption of infrared radiation; if levels surpass a predefined threshold, connected alarms will be activated. 

  • Combination sensors - Some vape monitors use a combination of particulate, gas and additional sensors like THC oil and temperature sensors to improve the accuracy of detection processes and reliably identify a wider variety of smoke-related offenses.

Vape sensors and nicotine detectors can be strengthened through integration with wider security technologies. For example, Internet of Things (IoT) sensors may be linked to vape monitors to add extra context to readings, while existing IP security camera systems may be connected to nicotine sensors to automatically flag footage of suspected vaping incidents.

The sensitivity and accuracy of vape smoke detectors 

For business owners, school administrators, residential property managers, and any other persons considering the installation of vape detectors on their properties, it’s essential to understand the abilities and potential limitations of modern devices. The simplest way to illustrate this is to briefly discuss both the accuracy and sensitivity of standard vape alarms.

Vape alarm sensitivity 

While exact figures may vary depending on the specific types and number of vape sensors deployed within certain environments, some information regarding the sensitivity of modern vape detection devices is readily available. For example, one study found that the particulate matter yield emitted when vaping can be up to 10 times lower than values observed in cigarette smoke. This means vape sensors must be significantly more sensitive than smoke detectors.

Generally speaking, commercial vape detection systems can detect particulate sizes down to around 0.3 microns, but multiple environmental factors can impact the efficacy of vape detector installations. To ensure effective deployments, consider the following factors:

  • Airflow - As vape alarms rely on particulate matter passing through internal sensors to detect vaping, devices must be installed with the natural airflow of a room in mind, if a room has too much or too little airflow, sensors may struggle to work as intended.

  • Coverage - Most vape monitors are only able to accurately detect particulate matter within a specific area of coverage. The style and number of sensors will affect this value, though as a general rule, one sensor should be able to cover a 12’ x 12’ area.

  • False positives - Some vape detection devices may be accidentally triggered by fine particles associated with non-vaping stimuli; steam, aerosols, cleaning product fumes and dust particles can trigger some tools, so consider this when planning installations.

Vape detector accuracy

While there have been reports of vape and nicotine detectors being circumvented by actions like obscuring sensor units and filtering vapor through items of clothing, modern devices are considered to be highly accurate. This is primarily because modern vape alarms can identify particles much smaller than those filtered out by common clothing materials.

Other factors can impact the accuracy of e‑cigarette detectors, but this mainly concerns the installation considerations mentioned above. Provided that vape detection devices are installed in line with these considerations and that wireless vape detectors are regularly checked for potential battery-related issues, most modern devices should be highly accurate. 

The challenges of vape detection without vape sensors

Property owners and facility managers who wish to keep their residences free from vaping may wonder whether an alternative solution to the use of vape sensors might be considered. However, as the common signs of vaping are often significantly different from those associated with traditional cigarette smoke, similar preventative measures are not typically as effective.

Common challenges of vape detection without the use of specialized vape sensors include:

  • Particulate size — Vape particles are considerably smaller than those associated with cigarette smoke, which means traditional smoke detectors will not typically be able to detect the presence of vaping with any reasonable degree of reliability or accuracy.

  • Environmental indicators — Vape smoke usually dissipates much faster than smoke associated with combustible materials like tobacco or marijuana, so it’s usually much more challenging to visually identify. E‑cigarette liquids can also come in a wide range of flavors meaning unlike traditional smoke vapes do not share a distinct or identifiable smell.

  • Emission variability - Different e‑cigarette models emit different amounts and types of particulate matter. This significant variability between different devices can make it much harder to identify the presence of certain vapors without aid from vape sensors.

  • Potential for concealment — A combination of the above factors can make it easy for offenders to conceal the use of e‑cigarettes in terms of visual and olfactory indicators.

The challenges listed above can negatively impact the efficacy of traditional smoke detection methods, including the use of smoke alarms and security monitoring staff. By installing vape smoke detectors – specifically, devices configured to alert security teams of unfolding events remotely – stakeholders can address vaping incidents more reliably.

Industries that benefit from vape detection systems

The deployment and utilization of active vape detection systems can assist facility managers and property owners across several major industries in measurably reducing the impact of unwanted vaping and smoking incidents. Provided installations are thoroughly planned and vape monitors are continually maintained, such devices can benefit the following industries.

Private businesses

Vape detectors installed in customer-facing businesses like retail stores, restaurants, hotels and leisure facilities can help on-site employees better address vaping and smoking events. By positioning vape alarms in high-risk areas like bathrooms, changing rooms and secluded locations, stakeholders can identify and address vaping incidents promptly.

By developing a remote-access vape detection system, on-site security staff can be notified of suspected vaping incidents via automatic text alerts. Accurate time and location data can be sent to commercial security system teams to improve incident response times, while the presence of visible nicotine sensors can help business owners deter vaping offenses from occurring in the first place.

Educational facilities

Vaping incidents have become a major issue for many schools and colleges in recent years, with one study finding that almost 30% of high school students and over 10% of middle schoolers vape on a frequent basis. Administrators can better address this issue with support from live school vape detection systems and vandal-proof vape alarms acting as a visible deterrent.

Educational facilities can also benefit from combination vape detection systems and installations featuring multiple sensor types, such as marijuana detectors, sound sensors and occupancy sensors. These school security systems can be configured to monitor a wide array of common threat factors with live alerts and automated responses helping teams to protect students and staff better.

Residential properties

Owners and managers of both short and long-term rental properties can utilize vape sensors to ensure units remain smoke and vape-free. Such apartment building security solutions can be particularly beneficial in large complexes and for property owners managing units remotely, with live alerts ensuring offenses will be identified regardless of whether manual checks can be performed.

Healthcare institutions

The utilization of vape detection devices in hospitals and similar healthcare facilities can help caregivers ensure a healthy and safe environment for staff and patients. Such developments can be particularly beneficial in hospital environments, as it’s not uncommon for long-term smokers to attempt to circumvent no-smoking regulations by instead trying to vape indoors discreetly .

Much like in school environments, facility managers may integrate vape detection devices into broader healthcare security systems to improve the efficiency and efficacy of threat detection solutions. Vape sensors can be combined with existing IoT sensors, CCTV tools and access control systems to offer security teams with limited resources a more holistic view of what’s going on in their facility.

Public environments

Public spaces like shopping malls, libraries and transit centers can be fitted with vape alarms to create and maintain vape-free zones. In many states and jurisdictions, vaping is prohibited by law in all public areas in which traditional smoking is banned. By installing vape detection devices in high-risk locations, stakeholders can maintain compliance with current regulations.

Tips for developing an effective vape detection solution 

For property owners and facility managers interested in developing a unique vape detection solution customized to the needs of their organization, below is a selection of five tips and best practices intended to help teams choose appropriate devices and installation configurations. 

1. Power source availability

Vape sensors are continuous monitoring devices that must always be powered to remain effective. If connecting sensors to a mains power supply is found to be impossible in high-risk locations, wireless vape detectors should be considered, alongside plans to frequently check and maintain each device’s battery supply during regular use. 

2. False positive avoidance

When assessing where to install vape smoke detectors, teams must consider the presence of potential false positive-causing stimuli. For example, the presence of steam or aerosols may impact sensors in bathrooms and changing rooms. In this situation, particulate sensors are less appropriate than gas sensors designed to detect vaping chemicals.

3. Vandalism concerns

While visible vape and tobacco detectors can deter some offenders from committing offenses, others may try to tamper with sensors to avoid detection. When planning new installations, stakeholders must consider this possibility and either install sensors in difficult-to-reach areas or select tamper-proof vape detection devices. 

4. Necessary coverage 

Facility managers must consult vape sensor manufacturers regarding the coverage potential of different systems. Some high-risk areas may require the installation of multiple sensors to ensure no blind spots are present, while others may be negatively affected by environmental factors like airflow. Teams must consider these points carefully during the planning process.

5. Integration considerations

Modern vape monitors can often be integrated into existing security systems to help teams develop comprehensive threat detection and building management solutions. When connected to a broader cloud-based management platform, data collected from multiple solutions can be analyzed together. Some possible integrations worth considering include the following: 

  • Occupancy monitoring sensors

  • Sound detection devices 

  • Motion and pressure sensors

  • Temperature and humidity sensors 

  • Air quality index sensors

  • Carbon monoxide monitors 

  • Video security system integrations 


For property owners, facility managers and school administrators to comply with current vaping regulations and protect their properties from potential vape and smoke-related damage, teams must find a way to reliably detect and deter vaping incidents. While in-person patrols can be effective in some cases, the subtle nature of vape smoke can make it hard to detect. 

By choosing to install specialized vape detection devices in critical locations, stakeholders can reliably identify the presence of vape smoke, as well as deter offenders from committing vaping and smoking offenses. Provided environmental factors and installation considerations are carefully reviewed, property owners can create unique vape detection systems designed to warn on-site teams of incidents in real-time to best address vaping and smoking offenses.

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