school vape detectors

How Do Vape Detectors Work? (update 2023)

Vape detectors work by using sensors to detect the presence of certain chemicals, compounds, or particles that are typically emitted from these devices when vaping. These include vapor matter, THC, CBD, nicotine, smoke dust, mist, propylene glycol, and glycerin.

Vape Detector Pitfalls?

Vape detectors can be effective at detecting the presence of e-cigarette vapor in certain situations and locations. Mostly excellent in closed indoor spaces. For example, they are not effective in outdoor situations since the vapor or smoke does not accumulate and quickly dissipates making it impossible for any sensor to detect the presence of vaping.

Indoor Vape Detector Reliability?

However, for indoor situations, vape detectors are able to detect e-cigarette vapor with a high degree of accuracy when the vapor is present and is accumulating. When vape smoke is accumulating, the vape detector sensor can detect this presence and take action, such as triggering an alarm or sending a phone notification.

Vape Detector Considerations?

  1. Ventilation. If there is too much ventilation in the indoor space, the vapor and or smoke will dilute, not allowing the vape detector an opportunity to detect the presence of vaping.
  2. Location. Placing the vape detector and locating it at the most appropriate place is paramount. Considerations such as ventilation grills, windows, and geometry of the room/bathroom are very important.
  3. Vape Detector. Not all vape detectors are the same. A sensitive vape detector based on PM2.5 particulate detection is the most sensitive. Particularly those employing laser scattering sensor technology.
  4. Behavior. Many students and individuals are catching onto methods to reduce vape smoke, such as exhaling the vapor in a toilet when flushing, vaping in a backpack, or employing personal smoke filters, such as those sold by Smoke Buddy.

It is paramount to note that the effectiveness of vape detectors can vary depending on a number of factors, including the type of sensor being used, the sensitivity of the sensor, and the conditions under which the device is being used. In some cases, vape detectors may not be able to accurately detect the presence of e-cigarette vapor, particularly if the vapor is present at low concentrations or if there are other sources of interference that may affect the device’s accuracy or even trigger a false positive.

How Far Do Vape Detectors Work?

The range at which a vape detector can detect vaping will depend on several factors, including the type of sensor used in the device and the environment in which it is being used. However, in general, vape detectors are most effective when placed in close proximity to the area where vaping is most likely to occur.

For example, some vape detectors are designed for use in enclosed spaces, such as restrooms and hallways, and can detect vaping within a range of several feet. Other vape detectors, such as those that use infrared sensors, can detect vaping at a greater distance, potentially up to several hundred feet.

The range at which a vape detector can detect vaping can also be affected by factors such as the concentration of vapor in the air, the ventilation of the area, and the presence of other strong odors or airborne particles.

In order to ensure that the vape detector works effectively, it’s important to install it in the appropriate location and test it regularly.

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Who Invented the Vape Detector?

The concept of a vape detector, or a device that can detect the presence of vaping or e-cigarette use, was first developed by several companies and research groups in the early 2010s.

One of the first companies to develop a vape detector was Sotera Wireless, which in 2012 announced the launch of its “VitalSense” device, which uses a sensor to detect the vapor produced by e-cigarettes, and sends an alert to designated personnel.

Another company that developed an early vape detector was SST, Inc. (Scientific Systems and Technologies) which created the “Vaping Detection System”.

Additionally, research groups have also been working on developing vape detectors. For example, in 2016, researchers from the University of Massachusetts Lowell published a study describing a device that uses a metal oxide semiconductor sensor to detect the vapor produced by e-cigarettes.

It’s worth noting that it’s hard to determine who was the first one to develop a vape detector as many of them were developed around the same time, by different companies and research groups, with similar concepts and goals.

How Does a Vape Detector Sensor Work?

A vape detector incorporates laser scattering sensor technology that allows the detection of vape juice particulates that are suspended in the air. These particles are emitted by vapes and other illicit inhaled products. Laser scattering is the most sensitive and reliable way to detect vaping.

vape detectors work


  • Understand the target environment for the best operation of your vape detector.
  • There are different vape detectors for different applications.
  • Ventilation, location, detector choice, and environment are key considerations when installing a vape detector.
  • Vape detector false positives are possible, but by adjusting the alarm threshold and understanding the environment (i.e. school bathroom), one will get a better understanding to pinpoint a reliable vaping trigger.

About the Author

Dr. Koz resides in the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles, California. He is a subject matter expert on vape detectors, gas sensor technology, gas detectors, gas meters, and gas analyzers. He has been designing, building, manufacturing, and testing toxic gas detection systems for over 20 years.

Every day is a blessing for Dr. Koz. He loves to help customers solve their unique problems. Dr. Koz also loves spending time with his wife and his three children going to the beach, grilling burgers, and having cold beer. Read more about Forensics Detectors here.

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Phone: +1 424-341-3886