Tracking Vapers

Posted 12th May 2020 by Dave Cross
A tech team at Cornell University has created a “first-of-its-kind device” that tracks vapers to obtain information about how they vape. They say it can monitor electronic cigarette inhalations unobtrusively, yielding important information for research about when and where people vape, how deeply they inhale and how much nicotine they consume.

The team says this “first-of-its-kind device” can be easily attached to all types of e-cigarettes and other nicotine-delivery kits. They claim it will “help fill gaps in knowledge about vaping that might help users curtail it”.

"There's been a jump in the prevalence of e-cigarette use, especially in recent years, but we don't really understand how people are using it," said Alexander Adams, doctoral student in information science at Cornell Tech and one of the authors of "PuffPacket: A Platform for Unobtrusively Tracking the Fine-Grained Consumption Patterns of E-Cigarette Users." The lead author is Tanzeem Choudhury, professor at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech.

They were due to present their paper at the 2020 Association for Computing Machinery Conference on Human Computing Interaction, but this conference has been cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

They say that information about the time, place and context where people smoke has long been key to understanding the triggers of cigarette smoking. This data is typically collected by smokers' self-reporting, according to the researchers.

"We wanted to figure out a way to map how people use e-cigarettes to determine what the triggers are," Adams said. "The lack of continuous and objective understanding of vaping behaviours led us to develop PuffPacket to enable proper measurement, monitoring, tracking and recording of e-cigarette use, as opposed to inferring it from location and activity data, or self-reports."


They say the popularity of e-cigarettes has “skyrocketed” in recent years, and state that this particularly occurs among young people – giving clear indication where they are coming from.

“Estimated annual sales of e-cigarettes jumped from $1.5 billion in 2014 to $3.6 billion in 2018”, according to the paper. “From 2017 to 2018, usage increased by 78% among high school students and 48% among middle-schoolers.” It’s a poor interpretation of teen use.

“Using PuffPacket could help vapers monitor their own nicotine consumption—harder to track than for traditional cigarette smokers, who can easily tell how much they've smoked by watching a cigarette burn or seeing how many remain in a pack.”

Maybe they are unaware that vapers can look at how many millilitres they’ve used in a bottle or that atomisers come in standard sizes?

They add: “The device could help researchers better understand the many forces impacting drug cravings and addictive behaviour, as well as to create interventions to help people quit.”


Numerous studies have shown that vaping carries a fraction of the addictive qualities of smoking, and terming vaping as “drug craving” displays a wholesale misunderstanding that comes from not having spoken to any vapers at any point in the process.

"In the People-Aware Computing lab, we are creating novel sensors and trackers to continuously monitor consumption of addictive substances such as e-cigarettes and alcohol," Choudhury said. "We are also developing a range of technologies to deliver minimally intrusive interventions to reduce cravings. We hope this can help individuals suffering from substance-use disorders on their paths to recovery."

The researchers developed three versions of PuffPacket with a range of attributes, such as ease of attachment and long battery life. The device makes use of the e-cigarettes' own signals, as well as Bluetooth technology, to track the intensity, duration and frequency of inhalations. The data is then transmitted to a smartphone, which captures location, time and activity—such as walking, standing or driving—to help identify what circumstances might be triggering people to vape.

A tech-driven approach that could be circumvented by simply monitoring use and interviewing vapers.

"Getting these correlations between time of day, place and activity is important for understanding addiction," Adams said. "Research has shown that if you can keep people away from the paths of their normal habits, it can disrupt them. It creates opportunities for moments of intervention."


They think that, “if someone skips or delays the first vape of the morning - shown in cigarette use to be critical in determining whether they'll smoke less over the course of the day - an app might send an encouraging message.”

Given that vaping is not smoking, many vapers might find this approach ignorant from the outset. Moreover, they want you to pay for it.

The researchers sought “to make PuffPacket as inexpensive and easy to use as possible. Affixing it directly to vaping devices and syncing it with cell phones is expected to yield more accurate results than methods requiring people to record their vaping habits manually. When activated by an inhale, the e-cigarettes' electrical signal ‘wakes’ PuffPacket, allowing it to save battery when not in use.”

"The demand is great for understanding the e-cigarette epidemic," Adams said. "We wanted to give the community of public health researchers a tool to help them do so."

An epidemic? The team has bought in to the rampant nonsense happening in the United States and produced something of little worth to tobacco harm reduction. It isn’t a first of its kind as there have been a number of mods that are Bluetooth-enabled and/or measure puff count, duration and other metrics.

The Electronic Cigarette Company


  • PuffPacket: A Platform for Unobtrusively Tracking the Fine-grained Consumption Patterns of E-cigarette Users – [link]

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, motorbikes, and dog walker
Liberty Flights