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A low-cost optical fiber sensor to detect volatile organic compounds has been developed. Changes of up to 13.5 dB in the transmitted optical power have been detected with different concentrations of acetone and dichloromethane vapors. The device uses a standard single-mode fiber. The sensing mechanism relies on a vapor-induced refractive index change in a film of a vapochromic material deposited on the thinner region of a tapered fiber. © 2000 American Institute of Physics.