The difference between vapor and smoke


Even though vaping has been around for a long time now, there’s still confusion and misunderstandings from people who aren’t fully educated on the subject of vaping. These misunderstandings range from vaping is just as harmful as smoking, vaping can cause cancer, and vape “smoke” is just as bad as smoke from a cigarette. And that last point is the one what I’m going to look at in more detail.

Vape smoke doesn’t exist, and can’t exist basically down to the fact it’s a bit of an oxymoron, as when a person vapes, they produce vapor, not smoke. So vapor smoke is definitely not a thing. So why do people believe that this is harmful? Let’s take a look!

cig smoke

How smoke is made from a cigarette and what it contains

I’m not going to give you a full on science lesson here on how smoke is created as it’s a pretty straightforward explanation that we all know and understand. Smoke is created as the result of combustion, and the combustion is created by lighting and burning the materials that form a cigarette. The materials found in a cigarette when combusted create a plethora of different substances and chemicals that are emitted within the smoke created and a lot of them are extremely harmful to the human body when ingested.

Harmful chemicals like carbon monoxide and tar are the two primary things created when you light a cigarette, and these are very present within the smoke that is emitted from a lit cigarette. It’s not only harmful to the person smoking, but also to others who are nearby as the smoke tends to linger and can be ingested involuntarily by others nearby and also cause harm to them.

How vapor is made and what it contains

How vapor is made is quite different to how smoke is created, and this begins the differences between the two things.

When a liquid is vaporised, which is what happens to your vape juice when you go to use your vape, it alters the state of it, but it doesn’t turn it into vapor instead it changes it to an aerosol.

Aerosol is defined as “a suspension of fine particles or liquid droplets in the air” which is why you will see when the e-liquid in your device is vaped, it turns into small particles that suspend in the air, but soon drop down and disperse quite quickly compared to cigarette smoke that hovers about and lingers.

This is because the particles made are liquid and not solids like in cigarette smoke and will not cause any risks to vital organs like the lungs or heart, which are heavily affected by cigarette smoke.

Aerosol clouds do not sound as cool as vape clouds, so we will stick to calling it vapor! As you may or may not know, vape juice doesn’t contain any form of carcinogens, or tar, or carbon monoxide and therefore these aren’t created and present in the vapor produced from e-liquid, like what is in cigarette smoke.

people smoking and vaping

The difference between vapor and smoke

Now we come onto the title of this article and look in comparison at the two things in question and see how else they differ. The only thing that the cigarettes and e-liquid have in common is they both contain nicotine, and that is it!

The Composition

As I mentioned earlier, cigarettes are filled with so many different things which when combusted will turn into various different harmful chemicals, with it proven that there are 70 carcinogens and probably many more things are that harmful and dangerous to be inhaling into the body.

Looking at e-liquid, the only ingredients that make up e-liquid are vegetable glycerine, proplyne glycol, flavourings and nicotine. And none of these have been proven to be harmful when inhaled and within the UK, all of the ingredients used to make vape juice have to be food-grade and pass all necessary regulatory checks thanks to the TPD regulations.

The smell

The smell is probably the second biggest difference between the two. The smell of cigarette smoke is so distinct and pungent, that anyone will know when someone has recently had a cigarette. The smell of stale smoke lingers around in the air, and tends to stick to surfaces or peoples clothes and it can be hard to get rid of. It can also give a person bad breath after having a cigarette.

Whereas with vapor, the smell is normally quite pleasant thanks to all the commonly fruit based flavours, and whilst the clouds that are produced are normally a lot denser than cigarette smoke, so may hover around a little bit more, it’s a lot more pleasant on the smelling sense than what cigarette smoke is.

The residue

As I briefly touched on in the above point, cigarette smoke will leave a nasty residue on walls, surfaces, furniture and anything that it can cling on to for dear life. And over time and build up, this will stain whatever it has touched with a dingy yellow colour, and that stain will not be easy to get out. The smell will also be stuck into this as well and it’s just not very pleasant in the slightest.

With vapour, it doesn’t leave anything of the kind what smoke does. Vapor can leave a small layer of film like residue on surfaces after a progressive build up, but a simple wipe with a damp cloth will remove this, and there won’t be any smell left behind.

The harm caused by passive inhalation

Everybody knows, and it has been scientifically proven that passive smoking by anyone can be harmful to their health. This is down to what we have already gone over, that cigarette smoke contains carcinogenics and carbon monoxide that is harmful to a human being. Children and older people are also a lot more vulnerable to the harm caused by passive smoking as their immune systems are weaker compared to someone of an older/younger age.

There has not been any proven evidence of any kind that shows that passive vaping is harmful to anyone, and there likely won’t ever be anything proven because the vapor produced is not harmful to anyone, espeically those passively taking it in.