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SmartVape: Real-Time Assessment of ECIG Device Characteristics using a Smartphone App

Principal Investigator(s): Bernard Fuemmeler and Thomas Eissenberg

Funding Mechanism: NIH Grant

ID number: 1R21CA239188-01

Award Date: June 28, 2019

Institution: Virginia Commonwealth University


Most e-cigarettes use an electrically-powered heater to aerosolize a liquid that usually contains nicotine, a solvent (i.e., propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin), and flavorants. The power of the e-cigarette device, which is based on the device’s operating voltage and heater resistance, varies across devices and is a major determinant of how much nicotine and other toxicants are aerosolized. The goal of this study is to develop a tool to assess e-cigarette power objectively in real-world settings. Study aims are: (1) to standardize methods for e-cigarette and e-liquid image capture; (2) to develop the SmartVape app and supporting software; and (3) to test the app’s usability and data quality in real-world conditions. Researchers will develop a smartphone app (SmartVape) designed for e-cigarette users to capture images of their devices and e-liquid. On a back-end server, an operator will be able to compare these images to an image-based product registry with known data on device characteristics and e-liquid nicotine content. The result will be the ability to assess accurately the device used and the amount of liquids consumed over a discrete time period. With this information, researchers will be able to estimate nicotine intake from e-cigarettes more accurately in real-world settings. To address Aim 1, researchers will recruit 200 adult (aged 18+) e-cigarette users who will bring all of their e-cigarette devices and e-liquids to a laboratory, where the devices will be measured and photographed. To address Aim 2, researchers will develop the app and the image-based product registry. To address Aim 3, 50 adult e-cigarette users will use the app to record the devices and liquids they use over a 14-day period. The tool will provide a feasible and objective method for assessing e-cigarette device and e-liquid characteristics in surveillance research.