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US Funds Cigarette-Smoke Detecting Underwear

By Bryan Le 05/14/13

Not satisfied with self-reported statistics, researchers develop an intimate way to track smoking habits.

Like this, but worn below the belt. Photo via

To help with researching Americans' tobacco use, the federal government ponied up $400,000 to manufacture smoke-detecting underwear. "Self-reported" smoking statistics are not always reliable, so the National Institute of Health (NIH) commissioned scientists at the University of Alabama to develop a way to monitor peoples' smoking habits for them. Using a bracelet and sensor on the midsection to track hand-to-mouth motion and inhalation, The Personal Automatic Cigarette Tracker (PACT) should be able to accurately measure exactly how much people are smoking. “We are trying to eliminate the need for self-report from people about how much they smoke, when they smoke, how many puffs they take from the cigarette,” says Dr. Edward Sazonov, an associate professor at the University of Alabama. “The combination of these two sensors, hopefully, will allow us to monitor cigarette smoking without asking people when and how much they smoke.” After three years in development, researchers have finalized a prototype of the underwear-smoke-detector. The device resembles a vest full of straps (as seen above), but is worn below the belt, and is able to distinguish smoking from other daily activities. It can be worn for a full day, but may be too bulky to slip covertly under one's garments. "Right now we're actually in the process of integrating this whole system just so it's in an elastic band, pretty much like a heart rate monitor,” says Sazonov. Spending this much of taxpayers' money on undies may seem extreme, but smoking already costs the country an estimated $96 billion in direct medical costs and $97 billion in lost productivity—making it a health problem nearly as costly as obesity.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter