NATIONAL REPORT—Even though guests may sign a waiver acknowledging that smoking is not permitted in the guestroom, that policy is increasingly being violated—by cigarette smokers, marijuana users, and by those who vape. In fact, currently 24 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana use for adults 21 years and older, while 38 states have legal medical marijuana programs. Fortunately for hoteliers, there are now smoking detection systems that can send an alert immediately if smoking is taking place and that can provide time-stamped, scientific proof that a room has been smoked in—critical information when a guest or even credit card company challenges that it happened.
Without a sensor in place, when smoking takes place in a hotel, a series of events typically begins. “A guest will notice,” says Jack O’Toole, Founder of FreshAir Sensor LLC. “The front desk will be called. Someone from security will sniff by the door. They will knock on the door. If someone does not call and complain, the smoking will not be discovered until housekeeping. If the housekeeper smokes, the smoking damage may not be discovered until the next guest checks in.”
The resulting costs of a room damaged by cigarette, marijuana, or vape smoke can quickly snowball. First, you must eliminate the odor which can take the room out of commission for several days. Soft goods and furniture are damaged which may lead to total replacement. The toxins in the air and on surfaces can negatively impact employee health, driving up health insurance costs. Third-hand smoke can never really be cleaned. Also, according to Perry Mehta, Founder of Alerteer, 60 percent of fires in hotels happen due to smoking in the guestroom. If something like that happens, property insurance costs can rise. If the smell of smoking is not satisfactorily removed—by an ozone machine, for example—future guests will complain, leading to more costs and possibly lost business due to negative social media posts. If one is a franchisee, issues with a franchisor may arise. It is amazing how much potential damage a few puffs can cause.
Alerteer’s Smart Sensor and FreshAir Sensor’s Smoking Sensor both provide hoteliers with the information to act fast when a no-smoking policy is violated. In the case of Alerteer, a detector is typically placed on the ceiling close to the smoke detector. Alerteer also offers a plug-in option that can be placed behind the TV. Alerteer detects cigarettes, marijuana and vape smoke. Once smoke is detected, a message is sent to the Alerteer app, by e-mail, text, or by telephone indicating the smoking activity, the type of violation, date, the time, and room number. Alerteer’s Smart Sensor operates off the local WiFi.
“As soon as smoking starts, our software and hardware algorithm senses it,” Mehta says. “An instantaneous alert is generated.”
Alerteer’s Smart Sensor system provides evidence of smoking that eliminates confrontations that can arise from the withholding of deposits. It is proper proof for credit card disputes and, Mehta says, offers an ROI of more than 10 times.
Unique to the Smart Sensor system is its ability to also monitor and report carbon monoxide levels in hotel guestrooms, adding a level of safety in an industry that occasionally sees injuries and fatalities from carbon monoxide exposure.
“Best Western is mandating to monitor CO and report on a monthly basis,” Mehta says.
Hoteliers can either purchase Alerteer’s Smart Sensor system outright, purchase a monthly subscription, or purchase a two-year subscription. To ensure that smoking violations are addressed immediately, Mehta recommends incentivizing front desk and housekeeping associates.
A FreshAir Sensor Approach
Jack O’Toole, Founder of FreshAir Sensor LLC, says his company takes a different approach to the technology behind cigarette and marijuana smoke detection.
“FreshAir is the only company with patented sensors that specifically detect tobacco smoke and marijuana smoke,” O’Toole says. “Our PolySens technology immediately detects specific molecules in tobacco smoke and marijuana smoke. The patented polymer sensors are based on over 20 years of research and development. Our chemistry and engineering teams have an active, on-going research and development agenda to expand the application of existing sensors and develop new sensors for other hazardous chemicals.”
FreshAir Sensor devices can either be plugged into a wall or ceiling or hard-wired. When smoking is detected, one is notified immediately via email and/or mobile phone push notification. The notification includes the time and location of the unauthorized smoking. O’Toole says the FreshAir Sensor system, which runs off the local WiFi, can also be tied to a PMS.
O’Toole says he used to travel as often as 200 days a year and hated his encounters with rooms that had been smoked in. That inspired him to develop the FreshAir Sensor system. Today, O’Toole is making it easier for hotels to not only catch violators but also catch them before too much smoke damage is done.
Smoking on the Increase
When asked whether smoking is becoming an increasingly problematic issue for hoteliers, O’Toole said, “I would say it is worse now because of the legalization of marijuana, but both cigarette and marijuana smoking are increasing.”
The need for sensors is being driven not only by smoking frequency but also by consumer demand. “According to AHLA, 87 percent of travelers prefer to stay in a fully nonsmoking property,” O’Toole says.
Hoteliers interested in the FreshAir Smoking Detection System can either get it monthly with no upfront cost or they can buy a device with five years of monitoring.
O’Toole says FreshAir customers publicize the detector’s use with tent cards positioned at the front desk and in the guestroom. “It is up to the hotel in regard to how they communicate it,” he says.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at email@example.com.