Difference Between Vaping And Smoking

Matt Wallace
Mar. 15, 2019
by Matt Wallace

While vaping skeptics and casual observers tend to confuse vaping with smoking, the fact of the matter is there’s a big difference between vapor and smoke. In fact, smoke and vapor are nothing alike. There is a big difference between vaping and smoking. Moreover, they’re not even made the same way. Smoke is a result of combustion, or fire. On the other hand vapor is the product of vaporization. Despite the very clear difference between smoking and vaping, the general public tends to see both as equal. But appearances can be deceiving.

It is understandable why many associate vapor with smoke. Smoke and vapor do look the same. In terms of smoking vs. vaping, the visible similarities are self-evident. With smoking, the user takes a puff on a cigarette and exhales smoke. With vaping, the user puffs on a device, which might look like a cigarette, and then exhales vapor. To the casual eye, vaping looks like smoking. On top of that, think of the name. The first vape devices were called electronic cigarettes. The term vaping did not evolve until later. The name “electronic cigarette” is inextricably associated with smoking. Therefore it makes sense that a device with the same name and looks the same will be directly associated with smoke and smoking.

The fact of the matter is that vapor is not smoke. An e-cig does not produce smoke, vape smoke, or whatever some may call it. An e-cig or vaporizer produces vapor. The difference between smoke and vapor is significant. To better explain, we will fully define each term. In addition, we will touch on the differences between smoking and vaping. Finally, we will not draw any conclusions about whether or not vaping is safer than smoking. But we will let you be the judge of that.

What Is Smoke?


As mentioned, smoke is the collection of solid, liquid, and gaseous aerosol particulates emitted from combustion. Smoke happens when a substance reaches autoignition temperature. At autoignition temperature, combustion begins. That means that a substance starts on fire. Combustion is a rapid, violent series of chemical reactions with known toxic by-products. How many toxic by-products? I’m not sure we have a good answer.

Just a few short years ago, conventional wisdom held that smoke was made up of 4,000 different chemicals. Just a few years later, thanks for improved detection technology, we now know cigarette smoke contains over 7,000 different chemicals. Including a virtual horror show of carcinogens. In fact, 250 chemicals in smoke are known to be harmful. And 70 chemicals that have been linked to cancer. At least that is what we know right now. As scientific detection technology improves, we may learn that there are even more chemicals than we know of today.

Much of the health hazards associated with smoke are because of combustion. It doesn’t matter what you start on fire, the smoke is going to have toxins in it. You can start organic kale on fire it’s not going to be good for you to breathe it in.

Smoke From Tobacco

But of course chemically treated tobacco is not organic kale. The tobacco that is in cigarettes is treated with chemicals to make the nicotine absorb faster and for the tobacco to burn faster. The idea is the faster burn and the faster the uptake of nicotine, the more cigarettes people smoke. For example cigarette tobacco is treated with ammonia, which accelerates nicotine absorption into the brain.

There is more that you need to know about smoking and what is in smoke. In 1964 the Surgeon General released a public report that publicly brought to light the dangers of smoking. Prior to this report, the information was kept from the public. Since society has been aware of the dangers of smoking, tobacco companies have actually increased the number of tobacco additives. A case could be made that cigarette smoke is more dangerous than ever.

What Is In Tobacco Smoke

The chemical byproducts found in tobacco smoke include:

  • Ammonia
  • Benzene
  • Hydrogen cyanide
  • Formaldehyde
  • Diacetyl
  • Lead
  • Nitrosamines
  • Radioactive elements
  • Carbon monoxide

This is just a sample of the harmful compounds found in smoke. This brief list was based on data provided by the American Cancer Society.

Difference Between Vaping and Smoking

In February 2018, the American Cancer Society released a position statement regarding the question of smoking vs. vaping. After years of opposing vapor products, the ACS now recognizes a difference between vaping and smoking. The position statement urged medical professionals to recommend that patients use approved smoking cessation methods to quit. However, the Society also recognized that vaping is safer than smoking. As a result, medical professionals were also advised to urge smokers to switch to vaping.


Vapor on the other hand involves heating a liquid to the point where it is converted to a gas, also known as vapor, which is then inhaled. What is vapor? The short answer is that it is a substance in its gas phase. To vaporize a substance, heat is applied but not to the point of the autoignition temperature. The liquid then becomes a gas or vapor. There is no such thing as vape smoke! Vapor is not smoke.

Perhaps the most important thing to understand about the definition of vapor is that the process of vaporization does not change the chemical composition of the liquid. The obvious example is water. When water is boiled the vapor, or steam, is still H2O, but just in gaseous form. Vaporizing does not introduce new chemicals or substances like burning does.

A vapor device is designed to heat a liquid to the point of vaporization. There is a caveat to be aware of. That is the fact that cheap, low quality vape devices can burn e-liquid. Also, improper use of a vapor device including too much current to the atomizer can burn e-liquid. When e-liquid is burned, the user will detect an unpleasant, burnt tasting vape. If a burnt taste is detected, the user should decrease power and or replace the vape coil.

Note: Mig Vapor electronic cigarettes and vaporizers use only the best materials and battery components.

Vapor From E-Liquid


Mig Vapor E-Liquids are made by professionals in a state of the art lab.

The ingredients of the e-liquid that are converted into vapor include propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, nicotine, and flavoring. A University of California at San Diego study found that vapor had no significant impact on the quality of room air. But as a matter of etiquette, it is recommended that vapers not vape around those who are uncomfortable with vaping. Nor should anyone vape around kids.

There have been reports about toxins being found in e-cig vapor. That can happen when too much power is applied to the atomizer causing overheating. Essentially, the vapor is burned. Vapers do not usually vape burnt vapor! Rather a burnt tasting vape is a sign that something is wrong and needs to be addressed. Typically a power reduction or a coil replacement will be required.

  • Using a good quality electronic cigarette was in the manufacturer’s guidelines helps reduce the chances of creating a burnt vapor. One key to look for is the voltage output of your device. Try and keep it in the 3.8 volt to 4.2 Volt range.

E-Liquid Contaminants

As discussed, vapor is comprised of the substances of the liquid form. Consequently, there can be contaminants in vapor if there are contaminants in the e-liquid. It is vital that vapers use e-liquids that are manufactured in a professional lab setting overseen by trained professionals. DIY e-liquid is popular with hobbyists, but the fact is that making vape juice requires proper facilities staffed by professionals.

Note: Mig Vapor e-liquid is made in the USA in a state of the art lab staffed by professionals. In addition, Mig Vapor e-liquids have won several awards for best vape juice.

Learn more about our premium quality vape juice here.


Smoke Vs. Vapor

Comparing smoke vs. vapor begins with understanding the difference between smoke and vapor. Clearly there is a big difference! In addition to the differences that we have covered, it is also noteworthy that vapor does not have the tar, ash, or odor associated with smoking. Health agencies like Public Health England has stated that vaping is 95% safer than smoking. However, in the United States we cannot claim that vaping is safer than smoking. The FDA is currently studying the issue.

Tom Frieden at the CDC is ran ad campaigns against vaping. Anti-tobacco groups don’t like vaping. And the tobacco lobbyists don’t like vaping. Vaping is on its own. But as much as he disparages vaping, Tom Frieden admitted in a Los Angeles Times interview that  “stick to stick, they (electronic cigarettes) almost certainly less toxic than cigarettes.” Even the most staunch anti-vaping regulators know the difference between vaping and smoking.

Adult tobacco consumers are free to apply their own common sense to the smoke vs. vapor comparison. Remember that vaping is intended as an alternative option for adult tobacco users.





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