Posted April 17, 2018 by Daniel Archibald-Jones in Information & Articles

Can Vaping Trigger Fire Alarms?

Vaping & Fire Alarm Risks

Let’s face it, one of the many advantages of vaping over tobacco is the simple convenience of being able to enjoy a nicotine hit without stinking out the room.

There’s also the somewhat grey area of where it’s permissible to vape when smoking would be banned. Hotel rooms, workplaces, bars and pretty much anywhere in-between all have set rules for tobacco, but rarely one for vaping. After all, if it’s not bothering anyone else or causing damage/stench then why not vape away?

This presents us with the long-running debate of whether vaping can set off fire alarms or smoke detectors.

Clearly, accidentally setting off a smoke/heat alarm is at best embarrassing and at worst even liable for prosecution, so it makes sense to be damn certain that your vape isn’t going to cause mass panic! But how can we tell whether or not that little white box is going to stay chilled or go berserk?

If you believe the countless number of experiments vapers (especially on social media/YouTube) have tried to answer this question, the sum answer would be that vaping very rarely sets off fire alarms.

Yet there are certain caveats that need to be respected here, and by far and away the most important is that fire alarms differ. There are three main kinds that you’ll encounter going about your daily business:

Heat Detectors

These work by simply monitoring for a sudden increase in heat, and are therefore often used in places where there is a higher risk of fire than usual such as kitchens and rooms devoted to storage.

Vaping produces barely any heat, and therefore it’s very unlikely that vape clouds will set these off under normal circumstances.

Ionisation (Smoke) Detectors

This is where the problems begin.

The majority of domestic and commercial fire alarms tend to focus on detecting smoke. Ionisation detectors use two electrically charged plates that work as sensors for detecting when smoke particles pass between them.

The question is how sensitive the particular model happens to be. Some will not even pick up cigarette smoke let alone vapour clouds, while others will be much more sensitive and liable to go off. There is no way to be sure besides trial and error.

Optical Detectors

To put it simply, these are like more consistent Ionisation detectors.

Instead of using an electric charge to detect smoke/vapour, they employ an infrared beam to detect particles that enter the unit.

Typically speaking, these are very sensitive and this is why they are used in high-risk locations such as public transport (especially airplanes).

They do not discriminate between smoke and vapour and it is not a good idea to vape around them!

Is It Ever Safe To Vape Around Fire Alarms?

So as we can see, there really is no exact science to when it is 100% safe to vape around fire alarms.

The best course of action is always to ask. After all, say for example you are staying in a hotel room for a few days. The chances are they will have a no-smoking policy, but vaping is much less likely to be explicitly banned.

As usual, it is best to be certain though so just ask the reception/concierge – they’ll be asked similar questions all the time. 9/10 you’ll be fine to vape in such a place – the clouds will almost certainly dissipate before even getting near the alarm anyway.

Obviously, statistics for accidentally raising an alarm because of vaping aren’t really kept so much of what we have to go on is anecdotal.

It’s certainly never happened to me, but then I’m not ever going to try and vape in an airline toilet. That’s a recipe for disaster! The only sensible advice is to ask someone who will know, or if in doubt just vape outside.

We won’t see ‘vape friendly’ smoke detectors anytime soon, so best to err on the side of caution.