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What’s The Difference Between Smoking And Vaping?

Despite striking differences between the two concepts, most people still believe that vaping and smoking are the same thing. Smoking is derived from the root word “smoke” while vaping comes from the root word “vapor.” 

The fundamental difference between smoke and vapor lies in how the two substances are produced. For smoke to be produced, a substance must undergo combustion (usually incomplete combustion). On the other hand, a vapor is produced when a substance undergoes vaporization, which simply implies heating up a liquid until it turns into vapor. 

So, smoking can be defined as the process of inhaling a puff from a cigarette and exhaling. The puff is usually inhaled through the mouth and exhaled through the mouth or nose, with a significant amount of it going through the smoker’s windpipe and into the lungs. With vaping, the vapor puffs on a vaping device, also known as an e-cigarette, and exhales the vapor. 

In both cases, smoke and vapor go to the user’s lungs and that may beg the question, are there any real differences between vaping and smoking? Let’s find out.

Common Differences Between Vaping and Smoking

Health and Safety

Smoking is believed to be more harmful than vaping, which is why most experts recommend vaping for chronic smokers who’re struggling to give up the habit. In itself, tobacco isn’t a very harmful compound. However, harmful effects occur when it’s heated. 

The burning process that takes place when you smoke tobacco is known as incomplete combustion. During incomplete combustion, a substance burns in a limited supply of oxygen, giving off hazardous by-products. You can tell when incomplete combustion is taking place when you observe smoke coming out of a fire. 

The smoke contains thousands of compounds and most are considered to be highly toxic. Researchers believe that cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals. Only a few of those have been studied and so far, scientists have cited 250 of them as highly toxic, with 70 of them containing carcinogenic properties. 

Some of the chemical by-products in tobacco smoke include;

  • Ammonia
  • Hydrogen cyanide
  • Nitrosamines
  • Lead
  • Benzene
  • Formaldehyde
  • Carbon monoxide 

Unlike smoking, vaping doesn’t involve combustion. Instead, an in-built coil heats the elements in an e-liquid, causing the liquid to vaporize. So, provided that there are no harmful compounds in the e-juice, it’s unlikely to become toxic upon being vaporized. It’s also worth mentioning that some of the common ingredients used in vaping, such as polyethylene glycol, are FDA-approved. 

But does that make vaping completely safe? Absolutely not. 

Vaping may be 85 percent safer than cigarette smoking, but it still carries some worrying side effects. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 68 vaping-related deaths reported as of February 18, 2020. However, the CDC was quick to observe that most of the deaths were related to people who modified their vape devices or used modified e-liquids. There was also a strong link to vaping significant amounts of 9-delta tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This is not a toxic compound per se. However, it comes with psychoactive and intoxicating effects, which means it should be consumed in moderation. 

In terms of health and safety, the verdict is vaping is far the healthier option. However, you’re better off not smoking or vaping in the first place.


Smoking is also different from vaping in terms of the delivery method. Smoking generally utilizes concentrates or dried plant parts. The dried parts are processed and smoked through cigarette rolls, pipes, or bongs. 

On the other hand, vaping mostly uses vape juices, also known as vape oils or e-liquids. These liquids are purchased separately from the vaping device. That means you have more control in terms of the ingredients you’d like to vape as well as their individual concentrations. 

After purchasing the e-juice, you administer it into a tank that’s built into the vaporizer. Vaporizers are powered using batteries. When you light the device, the batteries heat up a coil that responds by warming the liquid in the tank. As the liquid heats up, it vaporizes and travels through the cartridge to the vapor’s mouth. Always use trusted mighty vaporizers only for vaping. 

However, both vaping and smoking are fast-acting, which means that users can get instant relief from CBD vape pens. Effects can be felt within as short as 10 – 15 minutes.

Nicotine Use

Another commonly misunderstood fact concerning smoking and vaping is that smoking involves nicotine whereas vaping does not. This isn’t true. Both vaping and smoking deliver nicotine. In fact, it’s the nicotine that makes smokers and vapers hooked to the habit. The difference is that smoking delivers nicotine via combustion, whereas vaping delivers the compound through vaporization. 

Another common difference as far as nicotine is concerned, is that in smoking, the strength of nicotine is fixed. So, the amount of nicotine the smoker gets depends on how much they smoke, which can be another hazard, especially where a cigarette roll comes with low nicotine strength. A smoker would have to do many rolls to satisfy their nicotine craving while taking in a lot of toxic compounds. 

Vaping allows the vaper to control the amount of nicotine they take as it largely depends on the e-liquid that is chosen. It’s also worth noting that while nicotine is an addictive substance, it isn’t toxic. There are endless exciting products like vape cartridge that are coming along to make smoking a pleasant experience.


The cost of cigarettes is considerably cheaper compared to a vaping device. So, cigarette smoking may appear more affordable than vaping. However, apart from buying the vaping starter kit (which is mostly a one-off purchase) and e-liquid oil, you can vape for weeks on end without shelling out more money. 

Provided you have a proper cleaning and maintenance plan for your vaporizer, you’ll avoid any associated repair and replacement costs. This means,  the only cost is the vape juice, which is a once-in-a-while expenditure. 


Remember, smoking comes with more health implications. That means a smoker is likely to spend more on healthcare than a vapor will.

These are the main differences between smoking and vaping. Remember, neither practice is 100 percent safe. However, if you must choose one, go for vaping any day.


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