Recent concerns have arisen regarding the potential links between smoking, vaping, and fire alarm systems. Following the 2007 UK smoking ban that prohibited indoor smoking, people have been looking for alternative ways to consume nicotine indoors, feeling aggrieved that they are being sent outside in all weather. Smoke alarms have always played a crucial role in maintaining safety by detecting smoke particles and safeguarding buildings and lives, and this will never change, so we have to live with it. However, those of you looking for a nicotine fix without going outside might well be wondering about such issues as whether vaping can activate smoke alarms.
The bottom line is a very simple yes; vaping can trigger smoke alarms. The vapour emitted by vaping devices shares similarities with smoke in that it contains minuscule airborne particles. Smoke alarms have a range of various technologies, including sensors that detect these particles. They have limits, and if the amount of particulate sensed reaches a certain level, they trigger an alarm to alert occupants to get out of the building and contact emergency services.
How Do Smoke Alarms Work?
Multiple variables can influence modern smoke alarms. These include the density of vapour, the proximity of the smoke detector to the vapour source, and the type of smoke detection technology employed.
In specific environments like schools, offices, and even in some residential buildings, new vapour-specific alarms are being installed to effectively identify instances of vaping, particularly in confined spaces such as staff rooms and communal areas of flats. These alarms can also detect second-hand vapour exposure. While vaping is legally permissible in public places, caution is advised on private or government property.
Vaping in such spaces could trigger smoke alarms and, because of the building type, will also lead to the unnecessary deployment of emergency resources, including fire departments and, in some cases, police, if the occupancy of the building is known to be a certain level – there is a responsibility to ensure everyone gets out alive in the event of a fire so the police may also be called. The same holds true for vaping in hotel rooms, where extreme cases might necessitate a complete evacuation and result in expulsion and fines.
Attempts to manipulate hotel alarms, like covering them with bin liners or obstructing them with objects, are ineffective and discouraged. Disabling batteries is also futile, given that modern smoke alarms are wired into the main power supply. However, it is fair to say that false alarms are rare in the context of smoke and vapour detection.
The Bottom Line
Vaping devices, no matter what type, including vape pens, sub-ohm kits, and disposable vapes, should never be trivialized as toys and must be handled responsibly. Devices powered by lithium batteries require careful usage to prevent mishaps, and lithium batteries are one of the most significant risks to genuine fires.
While we understand that if you vape indoors at home, you want to be able to do the same outside of this setting, you do need to consider the rules and requests of the hotel, public space or venue you are visiting.