It’s not an easy question to answer. After all, vape pens produce vapour not smoke, so in theory they won’t set off a smoke detector because there’s no smoke produced for it to detect. As a general rule, that is indeed correct, but it’s not always as simple as that.
There are three commonly used smoke detectors available, and the likelihood of vapour being detected as smoke by them depends on which kind is being used. These models are:
The least commonly used, and the one that poses fewest problems for vapers, is the Heat Alarm, which is used mostly in kitchens and triggers based on the level of heat it detects and not the amount of smoke. As there are no problems with the heat produced when vapers vape, there should be no problem using a vape pen around this kind of alarm.
Ionisation-based smoke detectors work around a small amount of radioactive material that sits between two electrically-charged plates. This ionises the air within the device and generates a current that smoke particles break, thus triggering the alarm.
As this kind of detector works on a particle level, it can be very sensitive to changes in environment. With vape pens producing vapour and not smoke (and therefore different kinds of particles), they shouldn’t often set off ionisation-based detectors, but they have been known to.
The final kind of smoke detector is the most common and the most likely to be triggered by a vape pen. Photoelectric detectors use optical light beams to detect smoke in their vicinity. If there’s enough smoke surrounding the detector, the light beam is broken and the alarm is triggered.
There’s less risk of this happening with vapour than there is with smoke, but it’s still possible. If there’s enough vapour present to break the beam, the alarm will trigger, regardless of the fact it’s not actually smoke.
There’s no firm rule for using vape pens around smoke detectors, or how to vape without setting off the smoke alarm. Some detectors may be triggered, some may not. The best thing to do is judge each circumstance on its own merits. If you produce a lot of vapour and you’re in very close vicinity to a smoke detector in a crowded or sensitive area, it’s best to not vape. This way you remove the likelihood of triggering the alarm and causing problems for yourself and those around you.
If, on the other hand, you’re in your own home, the home of a family member or friend, or you’re a significant distance away from a smoke detector, blowing your vapour away from it, there should be no problem. You’re cutting the risk of triggering the detector by keeping vapour away from it, and even if it does go off, you’re in a controllable environment.
As always though, if you’re in an area that strictly prohibits the use of a vape device, follow the rules and do not vape.
Does vaping set off smoke detectors on aeroplanes?
It’s always best to assume that vaping on aeroplanes is banned, as it typically is, and therefore it won’t matter whether it will set off the fire alarms or not. However, if you do find an airline that allows vaping (woohoo!) then their smoke detectors likely won’t be triggered by vaping.
Does vaping set off smoke detectors in hotels?
This is a little more of a grey area, as it completely depends on the hotel and the type of fire alarm they have. If they have a heat alarm, as described above, then you should be fine, but if they have either an ionisation-based detectors or a photoelectric-based detectors, vaping is more likely to trigger an alarm. The hotel reception will be the best place to check whether vaping is allowed.
Should you ever turn off a fire alarm to vape?
No! If somewhere has a smoke detector, be it a public venue or someone’s home, it is there to keep everyone safe. By turning this off, you’ll be putting everyone in the building at risk, not to mention giving a bad name to the vaping community if anything goes wrong while the smoke detector is disabled. If in doubt about whether you can vape without setting off the fire alarm, you could always head outside and vape in the fresh air, safely away from any smoke detectors!
Want to find out more about where you can and can’t vape? Check out the vaping locations section of our blog.