Will the vapour from the e-cigarette set off the fire alarm? This is a question that often comes up on user forums in Sweden and internationally. And the answer is far from obvious.
Updated May 2023.
When some schoolchildren recently visited one of the school toiletsthe fire alarm went off. This is not the first time this has happened and, as usual, it made headlines in the media. According to the school's principal, it costs thousands of kronor per alarm triggered, a sum that can now be passed on to students who cause an alarm after blowing vapour with an e-cigarette.
But how common is it for e-cigarette vapour to set off fire alarms? And what should road users consider if they use e-cigarettes indoors? Karl-Åke Johansson is chairman of the user association NNA Sweden, an organisation that works for a better understanding of weaving as a technology and phenomenon.
"This is actually quite a common issue on our forums and can obviously cause some problems, even among older vapers. Because even if it's not smoke coming out of the e-cig, that doesn't mean you should be careless around smoke alarms" says Karl-Åke Johansson.
Older alarms do not react
So the vapour from e-cigarettes can trigger fire alarms. But this is far from a given and depends on a few key factors: the amount of vapour and the type of e-cigarette. alarm device that is installed.
Older smoke alarms usually do not respond to vapour. These smoke alarms tend to be so-called ionising alarms with sensors that measure it electrical resistance in the air, which is caused by fire smoke (the smoke from a cigarette, for example). These do not detect the vapour from e-cigarettes, as this does not come from burnt material and does not affect air quality in the same way.
Modern alarms go off
However, modern devices, known as optical alarms, works in a different way. These alarms have a sensor that reads, or rather "sees", the environment and therefore reacts to both vapour and smoke, whatever the source. If a large cloud is blown in the vicinity of an optical smoke alarm, the alarm may be triggered.
"If you are going to sleep indoors, it is important to first find out which fire alarm is installed. If it is a modern alarm, you should be careful. In private contexts, you can manage by applying so-called "stealth" vaping." says Karl-Åke Johansson.
Stealth vejpa - sneaking with the vapour
Rigid breathing, or stealth breathing, is a technique in which the user holds the vapour in the lungs long enough for it to be absorbed by the body or mixed with air until it is barely visible. However, it is a technique that requires practice, according to Karl-Åke Johansson.
"It requires that you take short flares and that you don't use too much power. It is not recommended for a beginner, but works if you know what you are doing. However, in a public environment, where smoking is prohibited, you should absolutely refrain. There you should use chewing gum, snuff, nicotine pouches or simply bite the bullet until the opportunity arises." says Karl-Åke Johansson.