According to one estimate, more than 35 million people worldwide now use electronic cigarettes. In the United States, this represents 4.5% of the adult population.
But the rise of vapors led to a trade in fake electronic liquids – the mixture of water, glycerol, propylene glycol, flavors and (usually) nicotine used to create the vapor of electronic cigarettes.
False e-liquids are those which contain ingredients or whose concentration is incorrect and which do not correspond to those indicated on the label. In particular, counterfeits often contain less or more nicotine than their labels claim, or impurities such as other drugs.
The problem is that there is currently no way of knowing exactly what is in an e-liquid and no formal certification system can guarantee the accuracy of a label claim.
However, my colleagues and I are working on a method of using portable scanning technology to detect false e-liquids. This system could help catch scammers because it does not only prove that an e-liquid does not match its labeling, it also provides a chemical "fingerprint" that can be linked to its creators.
Thanks to the Internet, fraudsters are much easier to sell fake products, and e-liquids are no exception. The problem is still new enough that we do not have reliable data on its frequency, but anecdotal evidence suggests that many vapers are aware of the problem.
Nicotine-containing e-liquids generally contain concentrations of between 0.1% and 2% of the drug, depending on the strength that the patient prefers. Current European legislation means that higher levels of nicotine are illegal. And manufacturers are required to declare any ingredient representing more than 0.1% of its content.
The purchase of a fake e-liquid is not only annoying, it is potentially dangerous. It is rare that someone consumes so much nicotine to the point of becoming toxic, but it can happen.
High doses of nicotine may have undesirable stimulant effects, such as hypertension (high blood pressure), tachycardia (abnormally high heart rate), tremors and even seizures.
The impurities of nicotine can also affect the body, but this is difficult to predict and depends on the nature of the impurity and its concentration.
Having a wearable technology to authenticate the products would help law enforcement officials identify false e-liquids, catch the criminals who are supplying them and thus prevent health problems that may occur. they provoke.
We have therefore adapted the portable scanning technology already used to detect other counterfeit products, including drugs and foods, by creating a chemical signature library for e-liquids and software to compare them to the results. of analysis.
The technology works by projecting near infrared light onto a sample. Different ingredients will reflect or absorb the light in different ways.
So, measuring this reflection gives a spectrum that acts as a fingerprint, which we can use to identify the physical and chemical properties of the liquid.
Our algorithms can then interpret this fingerprint and compare it to our library of other spectra to assess the likelihood that the liquid contains what the label says.
The use of this type of portable spectroscopic technology saves on the cost, labor and time required to take a sample in the laboratory, prepare and measure it, and then process the data.
Instead, our system can analyze a sample and tell users how compatible it is with library entries – and therefore how much nicotine and other ingredients it contains – without the need for it. It is necessary to follow a specialist training.
The collection of a signature takes a few seconds and the results are ready in a few minutes. The equipment is also stable in hot and cold climates and can be used in the field for long periods.
Portable versions of these instruments are already available to detect fake drugs and tobacco, so it would be easy to adapt them to law enforcement officers.
All you have to do is develop the right library of chemical signatures to detect a variety of electronic fake liquids, as we started doing. Then, the police can start to repress this potentially dangerous trade.
This article is republished from The Conversation by Sulaf Assi, Lecturer in Forensic Science, University of Bournemouth, under Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
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