Do Vape Cartridges Show Up on X-ray?

Do vape cartridges show up on x-ray?

Vaping has over the recent years become very popular among individuals looking for an alternative to traditional cigarettes.

In the USA alone, 1 in every 20 Americans vape while the use of e-cigarettes among the youths has over the past increased by 1800%.

According to the CDC, 2.5 million youth reported use of e-cigarettes in 2022.

This popularity has been enhanced by the different flavors available (mint, watermelon, strawberry) which makes it appear to be a safe alternative to cigarettes.

As the popularity increases, some of the vaping lovers have asked themselves questions like “do vape cartridges show up on x-ray machines during inspection?”, “will the TSA take my vape out of my carry-on?” and “can disposable vape be detected in a metal detector?” among others.

While transport authorities allow vaping lovers to carry them in their carry-on luggage while flying, it’s not clear whether these vape cartridges can be visible when scanned by x-ray machines.

In this post, we will answer the question of whether vape cartridges can show up on x-ray and look into what research and other studies say about this topic.

Do Vape Cartridges Show Up on X-ray? Everything You Need to Know 

Do Vape Cartridges Show Up on X-ray?


The answer to this question is YES.

Vape cartridges can show up on an X-ray.

They are made of metal and plastic, so they will appear as small objects that are clustered together.

However, they might not necessarily look like cigarettes.

It’s recommended to remove your e-cigarette/vape, place it in a tray/bin, and put it through the x-ray scanner separately from your carry-on bag.

If you keep it in your bag, it could look suspicious and cause you to undergo additional screening.

Please note that these are general guidelines and the actual procedures may vary depending on the specific rules and regulations of the airport security.

What Are Vape Cartridges?

Brief Overview of Vape Cartridges

A vape cartridge, also known as a vape pen or cart, is a self-contained device for vaporizing e-liquid or oil.

It consists of a mouthpiece, a chamber for holding the vape liquid, and a heating coil that vaporizes it when activated.

Vape cartridges offer unparalleled convenience and portability.

They can be easily carried in a pocket or purse, making them ideal for on-the-go vaping.

Composition of Vape Cartridges’ Vape Liquids

The contents of a vape cartridge vary depending on the specific product and brand.

However, there are a few common components found in most vape liquids:

Propylene Glycol (PG): A colorless and odorless liquid that acts as a carrier for the flavorings and active ingredients in the vape liquid.

Vegetable Glycerin (VG): A thick and sweet liquid that enhances vapor production.

Flavorings: Added to the vape liquid to provide a wide range of taste options.

Nicotine (Optional): While some vape cartridges contain nicotine, nicotine-free options are also available.

Different Types of Vape Cartridges

There are three kinds of vape cartridges: common 510 thread, device-specific pods, and disposables.

Here’s a brief description of each:

510 Thread: These cartridges are named for the 5mm threads, of which there are 10, that screw the cartridge into the corresponding battery.

This is the most common kind of connector.


Device-Specific Pods: These cartridges are designed to work with specific devices or brands.

They often offer unique features or designs that set them apart from standard 510 thread cartridges.

Disposables: These are single-use cartridges that come pre-filled with e-liquid.

Once the e-liquid is used up, the entire cartridge is disposed of.

Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to choose the one that best fits your needs and preferences.

What Are X-ray Machines and How Do They Detect Items?

Explanation of X-ray Technology

X-rays are a form of high-energy electromagnetic radiation.

They are produced by the movement of electrons within atoms.

The specific energy level of a given X-ray depends on how far the electron dropped between orbitals in an atom.

As photons from X-rays pass through your body, each tissue’s atoms absorb or react to photons differently.

The soft tissues in your body are composed of smaller atoms, so they don’t absorb X-rays well due to the photons’ high energy.

Common uses of X-rays in Security and Medical Settings

In the security settings, X-rays are used in airport scanners to check carry-on items and checked luggage for items that are not approved for air travel.

Some of the equipment used during the screening process can emit low-levels of radiation.

They use screening equipment such as metal detectors, millimeter wave machines, backscatter x-ray and cabinet x-ray machines.

These devices also detect items that may be hidden.

In addition to these uses, X-ray technology is also beneficial in determining when surgeries are necessary, reducing the need for exploratory surgeries, improving cancer diagnosis and treatment, reducing the length of hospitalizations, and guiding treatment of common conditions such as injury, cardiac disease and stroke.

How X-rays Work in Detecting Objects in Airport Scanners

When your bag enters through the lead-lined curtains of an airport scanner, the objects inside absorb some of the X-ray energy.

This means that the X-rays that pass through your luggage have less energy than those that do not pass through any objects.

The X-rays launched from one side of the machine are identified by a pair of detectors on the opposite side.

Baggage scanner machines rely on X-rays to see through the surface of your luggage to achieve detailed images of the items inside it.

Security officers can calculate how dense each object is, which gives them the information they need to spot contraband.

Types of X-ray Machines

There are several types of X-ray machines used in medical and security settings, each with its own unique features and benefits.

Here are some of the significant types:

  1. Fixed X-Ray Machines: These machines require large transformers that need to be built into the walls and connected to high-output electrical supplies. The X-ray tube is large and has limited movement.
  2. Portable X-Ray Machines: These machines are small, lightweight, and easy to move from one location to another. They are commonly used in emergency settings and in nursing homes where mobility is limited.
  3. Mobile X-Ray Machines: These are a type of portable machine that can be moved around on wheels.
  4. Computed Tomography (CT) Scanners: Also known as CAT scanners, these use X-ray technology to create detailed images of the body2. Unlike conventional X-ray machines, CT scanners use a computer to create a series of images that can be combined to create a 3D image of the patient’s body.
  5. Digital Radiography: This is a newer technology that uses digital sensors to create images of the patient’s body. Digital radiography machines produce high-quality images with less radiation exposure than conventional X-ray machines.
  6. Fluoroscopy: This type of X-ray machine uses a continuous X-ray beam to create a real-time image of the patient’s body. Fluoroscopy machines are commonly used in surgical procedures and to guide the placement of medical devices.

Do Vape Cartridges Show Up on X-ray? Factors that Determine if Vape Cartridges are Visible on X-rays

  • Material Composition: Vape cartridges are typically made of metal and plastic, both of which are visible on X-rays. The specific materials used in the construction of the cartridge can affect how it appears on an X-ray.
  • Density: The density of the materials in the cartridge can also affect its visibility. Denser materials will absorb more X-ray radiation and appear lighter on the X-ray image.
  • X-ray Scanner Settings: The settings of the X-ray scanner, such as the energy level of the X-rays and the sensitivity of the detector, can also influence whether a vape cartridge is visible.

While there aren’t specific case studies or examples available that detail instances of vape cartridges being detected on X-rays, it’s important to note that any object made of metal or plastic should be visible on an X-ray.

Challenges in Detecting Vape Cartridges with X-rays

One challenge in detecting vape cartridges with X-rays is their small size and shape.

They may not necessarily look like traditional cigarettes on an X-ray, which could make them harder to identify.

Additionally, if a vape cartridge is stored with other items in a bag or pocket, it might be difficult to distinguish it from those items on an X-ray image.

Limitations of X-ray Machines Used in Airports

X-ray machines used in airports, while effective in many ways, do have some limitations:

Limited Transparency: The introduction of X-ray technology in airports was done with minimal transparency for passengers.

As a result, most of the general public probably does not realize there is minimal proof these technologies actually prevent terrorist attacks.

Health Concerns: Some people have raised concerns about the health risks associated with exposure to the radiation emitted by X-ray machines.

While the radiation levels are low and within safe limits, there is still some debate about the long-term effects of repeated exposure.

Inability to Detect Certain Materials: While X-ray machines are effective at detecting many types of materials, they may not be able to detect all substances.

For example, substances that are similar in density to the materials commonly found in luggage may not be easily distinguishable.

False Positives/Negatives: X-ray machines can sometimes give false positives (detecting a threat where there is none) or false negatives (failing to detect a real threat).

This can lead to unnecessary delays and inconvenience for passengers.

Dependence on Operator Skill: The effectiveness of an X-ray machine can also depend on the skill and experience of the operator.

An inexperienced operator may not correctly interpret the images produced by the machine.

Privacy Concerns: Some passengers have expressed concerns about privacy, as full-body scanners can produce detailed images of a person’s body.

Alternatives to X-ray Detection

Apart from X-ray machines, there are several other security screening methods used in various settings:

Metal Detectors: These devices are commonly used in airports, schools, and other public places to detect metallic objects on a person’s body.

Explosive Trace Detection (ETD): This method involves swabbing a person or their belongings and then analyzing the swab for traces of explosives.

Millimeter Wave Scanners: These scanners use non-ionizing radiation to detect objects concealed under a person’s clothing.

Biometric Systems: These systems use unique physical or behavioral characteristics, such as fingerprints, facial recognition, or iris scans, to verify a person’s identity.

Behavioral Detection: This method involves trained personnel observing passengers’ behavior to identify suspicious activities.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Different Detection Techniques

Each detection technique has its own advantages and disadvantages:

Metal Detectors: They are relatively inexpensive and easy to use, but they can only detect metallic objects and can be set off by harmless items like belt buckles or keys.

ETD: It is highly sensitive and can detect even trace amounts of explosives, but it requires physical contact with the person or their belongings.

Millimeter Wave Scanners: They can detect non-metallic objects and are safe for human health, but they are expensive and have raised privacy concerns.

Biometric Systems: They provide a high level of security and can’t be easily fooled, but they require the person’s biometric data to be stored in advance, which raises privacy issues.

Behavioral Detection: It doesn’t require any special equipment and can identify threats that other methods might miss, but it relies heavily on the skill and training of the personnel.

The Role of Security Personnel in Identifying Vape Cartridges

Do Vape Cartridges Show Up on X-ray?

Security personnel play a crucial role in identifying vape cartridges.

They are trained to recognize the typical appearance of vape cartridges and can often spot them even if they don’t show up clearly on an X-ray.

If they suspect a vape cartridge might be counterfeit, they can compare it with legitimate products on the manufacturer’s website.

However, this process requires a high level of vigilance and expertise.

Tips for Travelers and Vapers

Guidance for Vapers When Traveling

Carry-on Luggage: Electronic smoking devices are allowed only in carry-on baggage.

Passengers are required to take effective measures for preventing accidental activation of the heating element of the device when transporting the devices.

E-liquid Restrictions: Much like other liquids, you are permitted to take onboard e-liquids, although please note that the same regulations apply.

Your carry-on luggage must only contain a limit of 100mls in any variety of liquid, including e-liquids.

Empty Your Tank: Before going through security, you should ensure that any component attached to your battery is separated.

Do Vape Cartridges Show Up on X-ray? Final Thoughts

If you’re wondering whether vape cartridges show up on x-ray machines, then the answer is YES.

They are made of metal and plastic, so they will appear as small objects that are clustered together.

However, they might not necessarily look like cigarettes.

It’s recommended to remove your e-cigarette/vape, place it in a tray, and put it through the x-ray scanner separately from your carry-on bag.

If you keep it in your bag, it could look suspicious and cause you to undergo additional screening.

It’s crucial to follow all security regulations when traveling or entering restricted areas.

This includes adhering to rules about carrying vape cartridges and other electronic devices.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Smoking Vape be Detected?

Do Vape Cartridges Show Up on X-ray?

Yes, vaping can be detected by smoke detectors and other particulate sensors.

Although e-cigarettes and weed pens do not emit the same amount or type of smoke as regular cigarettes, they can still easily be detected in public places such as airports.

Vape detectors like 3D Sense work by using a particulate sensor to detect the presence of vaping particles, which can be as small as 0.3 microns.

These sensors can also detect the presence of THC vapor or marijuana.

Smoke alarms are designed to detect smoke, but electronic cigarettes produce vapor, which dissipates faster than smoke.

However, some smoke detectors can still detect vapor, depending on the type of detector being used.

Heat alarms, which are used mostly in kitchens, are the least commonly used and pose the fewest problems for vapers, as they trigger based on the level of heat they detect and not the amount of smoke or vapor.

Should I Bring My Dab Pen Through TSA?

YES, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), travelers are permitted to bring electronic smoking devices, such as vaping devices, dab pens, and electronic cigarettes, in their carry-on bags.

However, precautions should be taken to prevent the heating element from activating during transportation.

While dab pens are allowed in carry-on luggage, it’s crucial to understand and follow TSA regulations to avoid any issues during security screening.

All liquids in carry-on baggage must be placed in a single 1-quart bag, and electronic devices and lithium batteries must be brought onto the plane.

However, it’s important to note that while federal law prohibits marijuana possession, many states have legalized recreational or medical use.

If TSA discovers marijuana in your luggage, they may refer the matter to local law enforcement, and depending on state and local laws, you may face criminal prosecution or have the marijuana confiscated.

Do Airport Scanners Detect Vape Pens?

Yes, airport scanners can detect vape pens.

While airport scanners are not specifically designed to detect vape pens, they can identify them in your luggage.

Therefore, it is recommended to follow the restrictions of the airlines.

According to those restrictions, you can only put your vape kit into the luggage, but you cannot vape at the airport or on the plane.

Electronic smoking devices are allowed only in carry-on baggage.

Passengers are required to take effective measures for preventing accidental activation of the heating element of the device when transporting the devices.

However, airport staff members are trained to identify any potential security threats, and it is always better to err on the side of caution when traveling with vapes.

Will A Vape Cartridge Set Off a Metal Detector?

Yes, vape cartridges can set off a metal detector.

Most vape cartridges contain metal parts, including the heating element and the mouthpiece.

The amount of metal in a cartridge will vary depending on the manufacturer, but it’s not uncommon for them to contain small amounts of brass, aluminum, or stainless steel.

However, most vape devices don’t have enough metal to trigger a standard metal detector.

If you’re using a basic e-cigarette or vape pen, there’s a minimal chance it will set off the detector.

Can Drug Dogs Detect Vape Cartridges?

Yes, drug dogs can detect vape cartridges.

Dogs have an amazing sense of smell and can be easily trained.

This means a dog can be trained to detect almost anything, providing it has a scent.

Drug sniffer dogs can smell for vape cartridges and pens depending on what’s in the juice and cartridge.

Police dogs can signal to detect what they have been trained for, which can include cannabis and nicotine with some law enforcement agencies.

The bottom line is, if you have vape juice with a substance in it that dogs are trained to detect, then the dog will smell, no matter how well the scent is disguised.

Even if the dog can’t smell through the cartridge of glass of a vape pen, they will likely smell the illicit substance on the fingers of the person on the outside of the vape.

How Do I Hide My Vape from Airport Scanners?

I cannot recommend hiding a vape from airport scanners as it is illegal and can result in serious consequences.

However, here are some tips you can use to hide your vape from airport scanners:

  • Put your vape in your carry-on or coat pocket and let it go through the scanner.
  • Technically, airport security scanners do not detect drugs but they can provide visual clues of drugs hidden under clothes and in baggage.
  • Double bag your vape with another zip lock bag and place it with your other liquids.
  • Invest in a carry-on bag with discreet pockets to hide your vape kit.
  • Leave your vape in your backpack as TSA does not care, but e-juice is supposed to be in a clear zip-lock bag.
  • Separate the e-liquids from the e-cigarette device and place the device in your carry-on.

Again, it is important to note that attempting to hide a vape from airport scanners is illegal and can result in serious consequences.

It is best to follow all airport rules and regulations to avoid any potential consequences.

Recommended Read

Will TSA Take My Vape Out of My Carry-on?

Will the TSA Take My Vape if I’m Under 21?

What is the Penalty for Vaping on a Plane?

Can You Bring a Vape on a Plane Under 21?

Can a Disposable Vape Be Detected in a Metal Detector?

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