Can E-cigs set off fire alarms

Can E-Cigarettes Set off Smoke Detectors? The Definitive Answer

When South West Airlines Flight 3654 took off from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, no-one expected any problems.

But one passenger was suffering from nicotine withdrawal.

So part way through the flight he sneaked off to the toilets to stealth vape.

But shortly after he, along with the rest of the passengers, had a massive shock when the plane’s fire alarms went off, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing.

Can Vaping Set Off Regular Smoke Alarms?

Some people will tell you that vapour can’t set off smoke alarms – in fact, I was even told that by a fire expert when researching this article.

We wanted to find out if vapes can set off fire alarms, so we decided to blow vapour directly into a fire alarm. Here’s what happened:

Now, that’s a bit extreme. In the example above, Tom blew directly into a smoke alarm. Both Tom and I vape in the office all the time, and I’ve never set off an alarm until I blew straight into one, even when using the Aspire CF Sub Ohm battery and having a cloud chasing competition with our mixologist. (It’s a hard life working for an e-cigarette company 😉 )

According to Alan Morgan from St Davids Fire, even a bit of cigarette smoke shouldn’t set off modern fire alarms, which have been designed to avoid false alarms.

Nevertheless, if you do use your e-cig indoors, or even worse on an airplane (please don’t – the consequences can be serious, as Rory Sutherlend found out when he spent a night in jail in Qatar), there is a small chance that your e-cigarette could set off an alarm – especially if you blow large clouds!

(And in fact, if you’re a bit absent minded like me, it might be worth keeping your e-cig out of easy reach when on a plane!)

Which types of fire alarm are vulnerable to vapour?

There are different kinds of fire alarms, and some are more likely to be set off than others.

Ionisation: Sensitive to small particles of smoke. They utilise two electrically charged radioactive plates. When smoke particles enter the fire alarm they disrupt the electricity between the plates, setting off the alarm. This was the type used in our little experiment!

Optical alarms: Optical alarms work by beaming infrared light. When smoke particles enter the smoke alarm, the particles cause the infrared light to be scattered onto a light detector which triggers the alarm.

Heat alarms: Used in kitchens, these are unlikely to detect vapour as they are responsive to heat rather than to smoke.

When we spoke to South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, they told us that optical alarms are the type most likely to be set off by electronic cigarette vapour, although as our little experiment showed ionisation alarms can be set off too.

How likely is your electronic cigarette to set off a fire alarm?

Fortunately, reports of electronic cigarettes setting off fire alarms are rare. Smoke alarms are designed to detect smoke, and electronic cigarettes produce vapour. In addition, vapour dissipates a lot faster than smoke.

However, the use of PG and flavourings is thought to create larger particles than the average steam from a kettle. And according to Ohio University, fog machines, which contain propylene glycol too, can also set off fire alarms.

So, setting off the average fire alarm is unlikely – but still possible.

Is it safe to vape in a hotel room?

Hotels vary in vape policy – some expressly forbid vaping, while others do not have a vape policy. (If a hotel is pro-vaping, it might be a good idea to support it).

But hotels often have more sensitive vape alarms than your standard office or house alarm. And when Tom was vaping in a Premier Inn he noticed that the smoke alarm had started to flash red.

Meanwhile, one poor Reddit commenter set off his hotel alarm at 7am in the morning, woke up the whole hotel and was asked to pay a $200 fine.

So if you are going to vape in your hotel room, it’s a good idea to note where the alarm is, and use your e-cig a safe distance away from it – or, if you are blowing large clouds, by an open window.

Will your e-cig set off a smoke detector in a plane?

Fire alarms in planes are extremely sensitive. Most if not all airlines do not allow you to use standard e-cigs in planes (although some airlines do sell vapourless versions).

As we saw earlier, some people have spent a night in jail for using an e-cig on Qatar Airways. That was an extreme example, but you could easily have your e-cig confiscated, have to pay a hefty fine or even be added to a no-fly list. In the UK you are not allowed to vape on most trains or buses either (an exception is South Eastern Railways).

Have you ever set off a fire alarm with an e-cigarette, or do you know of someone who has? Let us know in the comments.

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19 thoughts on “Can E-Cigarettes Set off Smoke Detectors? The Definitive Answer

  1. We used to have Saturday night poker games in my small and (in the winter) fairly unventilated kitchen. Usually about five regular smokers playing, and never once set off the smoke alarm that would scream when I made toast.

    Smoke alarm scares are often hyped in order to get people to cooperate with bans. Unless the smoke detector is a new version with high sensitivity, or there’s a LOT of smoking going on with no ventilation, or you blow smoke right at it, it’s generally not going to go off. Smoking OR vaping in the tiny airplane bathrooms, particularly since they banned smoking and just let everyone stew in their collective respiratory diseases, could well set them off nowadays though.

    Heh, and I just saw, in one of the ONLY two references to smoking of any sort in the first dozen or so episodes of the new Hawaii Five-Oh : It’s a Federal felony if you DO get caught smoking in the plane bathroom (not sure about vaping) … but if the plane makes a landing because of it, be ready to pay thousands in costs.

    – MJM

    1. Absolutely, as I think I mentioned in the article Alan told me that modern fire alarms are specifically designed not to go off because of cigarette smoke, but it’s a different matter in planes which have very sensitive alarms. After doing the research, my conclusion was that setting of an alarm with an e-cig is both rare and unlikely (in most circumstances) – but it is possible and vapers need to be aware of that possibility.

      1. In my case a passenger told crew that I smoked in toilet…apparently they smelled the smoke, kind of weird ad my ecig didn’t smell at all, no alarms went off…no crime committed but nevertheless arrested taken to court dismissed and held up for 36 hours in Doha jail

    1. I’ve vaped on many planes in the bathroom – on both domestic and international flights (US, South America and Europe). I am always SUPER cautious however, inhaling small amounts, holding it in as long as possible and then blowing it directly down into my shirt towards the ground. I’ve never had any problems but, as you can see, I’m still researching it so I’m still not over confident. Just thought it may help to share my experiences. BE CAREFUL!

      1. I’m frequent vapor in long flights, I often travel in business class. So what I do is to cover myself inside the blanket sheets the give out and enjoy vapping inside, even my neighbor couldn’t notice that.

        Regards

      2. I should have done it down my shirt…!!! i thought afterwards…but dont on delta mine went off it was taken until we landed, the pilot was mad and i felt SO STUPID…..one of hte nice flight attendants said their smoke alarm is sensitive….but before that i tried on Jetblue and it didnt go off lol

  2. I just vaped right now on a hotel and it triggeres a smoke detector.. i had to pay a helfty fine.. it sucks tho.. lesson learned not to vape anywhere where there is smoke detectors. I do chunk out big clouds tho. Really frustrating trying to explain to the receptionist that its different from tobacco smoke and it woudnt leave an odor. But since i triggered a smoke detector it caused panic to the guards. Luckily that it was just a smoke detector warning

  3. I myself have used a vape pen on a commercial airline flight from NYC to London, I was discrete and went to the lavatory , I held in the puff for a long time and blew the remainder vapor into my shirt. I preformed this 3 times during the flight and did not set any alarm off . Make sure you are not blowing the vapor at the dectector directly like a clown and you should be fine

  4. Got to work a little late. In the elevator lobby took a huge haul off my e-cig waiting for the elevator. Blew it out upwards so the cloud wouldn’t be noticed if somebody got off the opening elevator doors. What was above me? And in every commercial building elevator lobby in America? A smoke detector. As I entered the elevator cab the WHOLE building went into alarm. Hundreds, maybe over a thousand people came downstairs stood outside and waited for the fire truck to leave. It’s a big building, a cafe with cooking, manual pull stations to put the building in alarm etc. so could be complete coincidence when I stepped in the elevator. It could have been anything. But do I think it was my vape? Yeah I do. And I’m not fessing up. At my desk vaping right now.

  5. Like some of the guys above.. i use e cigs on plane all the time on long or short flights. I would inhale and try blowing out in small amounts into my shirt so i can barely see any vapour floating pass the shirt barrier. I will do this just enough so my cig urge is gone.

  6. Last week i set off the entire fire detection system at the Camino Real in Vera Cruze Mexico. Luckly when 2 managers and security showed up to my room, there was no smell left. I acted totally surprised and a little annoyed and they let it slide. So IT CAN HAPPEN….if your pushing phat clouds, go in the bathroom.

  7. Hotels are easy if your a cloud chaser do it in the toilet, but generally your fine if the kettle or the shower won’t set the alarm off why should a vape

  8. Last week my friend smoked traditional cigarette in the living room – No alarm at all
    Today morning I had some vape, alarm started beeping….. came late to work and get angry.
    Smoke alarms 99% makes life harder
    1% save your valuables or whatever.

  9. Aghhhh, I’m so frustrated. So last week my landlord busted me smoking cigarettes in my room. The fire alarm went off while I was at work and the fire brigade were called and my building had to be evacuated. My landlord decided to let it slide and I was so grateful, so grateful in fact I decided to through my cigarettes in the bin and buy an e cig. The whole building has just had to be evacuated again because the smoke detector went off in my room, it’s very possible I’m going to get evicted lol.

  10. Just set off the smoke alarm in my house with a vape beast tank lol. I blew it at the window but it didn’t work. If you’re sub ohming hard then be careful.

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