You know it. We know it. Most people know that smoking and vaping are two wildly different things, but you might be surprised how many people don’t know, don’t care, or both. Let’s break it down.

Do you ever see an article or a post on social media and think, “Well, DUH!” You’ll have to pardon us if this article is one of those posts for you – but if it is, then good for you! You know that there are some basic, fundamental (fairly obvious) differences that set vaping apart from smoking. On the flipside, do you ever see those same obvious bits of content and think, “Well, if they’re writing this, then that actually means there are probably people out there who didn’t know this…” And unfortunately, that’s the case for many people when it comes to vaping. Believe it or not, a lot of people (some sadly, at a high enough level in our local governments to enact laws surrounding vaping) do not see a difference between vaping and smoking. Well, in the interest of doing a public service (as well as in the interest of preserving our sanity), let’s provide a really precise breakdown of what is actually going one when you smoke a cigarette versus when you take a drag from an e-cig.

What Happens When You Smoke

If the words used to define the action of “smoking” and “vaping” didn’t clue you in, there is actual smoke when you inhale a traditional cigarette. And you know what they say – when there’s smoke, there’s fire. When you put a lighter or match to the end of a cigarette, the flame meets the dried tobacco and it burns. This is officially known as the process of combustion, which is one of the most well-known chemical reactions in all of science. The act of combustion produces smoke, which is then inhaled through the lungs. The combusting of the tobacco also breaks down certain compounds that are in the dried tobacco leaves themselves (most notably, nicotine), which are contained in the resulting smoke. When inhaled, the lungs are able to absorb nicotine and release it throughout your blood stream. This is one of the quickest ways for a user to feel the effects of nicotine (increased heart rate, feelings of alertness or energy, constricted blood vessels, releases dopamine, etc.) – usually taking about six seconds, which is much faster than chewing tobacco or consuming the leaves. The problem is that the process of combustion produces other elements in the smoke that are generally not seen as desirable – elements that produce tar accumulation in your body, charred elements that are well-known to have a strong link to causing cancer, elements that will significantly stain and yellow your teeth, as well as elements that overtime will kill your taste buds. In fact, the America Lung Association asserts there are over 7,000 chemicals created when cigarette tobacco is combusted, 69 of which are known cancer causers. Not good.

What Happens When You Vape

First things first – there is no smoke NOR fire when you vape. Let’s just get that out of the way right up top. Vaping is the process of heating something enough to turn it into a gas – that’s it in a nutshell and is one of the main phase changes many of us learned about in high school chemistry class. Vapor is much different than smoke. Many of the carcinogenic compounds and chemicals that smokers inhale are created due to the process of combustion, as the link between fire/char/smoke and cancer has been established (even food that is heavily charred and blackened has been linked to cancer). Vaporizing is a much more exact process where the user can control the temperature precisely, allowing the substance being vaped to get heated to the specific point where elements are released, but before it burns and releases anything else. The lack of fire and smoke is obviously a huge difference between smoking and vaping – but the other huge difference is with the vast majority of e-cigs, there is no actual tobacco either. That’s right, people who call vaping “smoking” – the e-liquid that you see e-cig users fill up their devices with contains no actual tobacco. It consists of a few main ingredients, which vary in amounts from brand to brand – water, a base mixture of both propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin, nicotine, and flavoring.


If you read this blog or follow the electronic cigarette industry, you’ll know that more research is always being done in the realm of e-cig usage to determine the long term safety of prolonged vaping. But the fact remains that vaporizing an e-liquid produces much less carcinogenic compounds than does smoking – enough so that Public Health England (an agency within the UK Department of Health) claimed that e-cigs were 95% safer than regular cigarettes. We like the sound of that! Don’t forget to visit our site to find everything you need to vape – and feel free to point people to this article the next time somebody refers to your vaping as “smoking.” By Jerry Whitehead III Image via Flickr user Mike Mozart

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