(888) 448-0302 Talk to a recovery specialist 24/7

Choosing recovery close to home means your support system is just a few miles away.

  • 100% Confidential
  • Available 24/7
  • No Pressure to Commit
  • Multiple Financial Options Available
Call (888) 448-0302

We're Here To Help 24/7

The Difference Between Vaping and Smoking

by Landmark Recovery

September 18, 2019

As vapes have been around for the better part of a decade now, we’re starting to hear more and more about the pros and cons of vaping.

Today, we’ll guide you through the key differences between vaping and smoking.

Before we get started, since vaping is in its relevant infancy, we simply don’t have the benefit of data for long-term use. That will only unfold as vaping matures as a market and continues to be a popular aid to stop smoking.

So, before launching in to compare vaping and smoking, what is vaping, exactly?


An Introduction to Vaping

Vaping was a term coined by the electronic cigarette industry looking for a more marketable way of describing their nicotine replacement devices.

Today, while vapes are still primarily used by smokers trying to quit cigarettes, they’re also used as delivery systems for marijuana.

Opinion shifts with regard to the safety of vaping. For years, the American Cancer Society was a staunch opponent of vapor products. Back in February 2018, though, the ACS pivoted with this position statement. In this statement, medical professionals are urged to suggest that patients explore smoking regular and approved cessation methods in order to quit. That said, the ACS still maintain that vaping is safer than smoking. With this taken into account, the ACS recommends that doctors urge their smoking patients to vape instead of using cigarettes with the proviso that “the health effects of long-term use are not known.”

While the official line has changed, there’s a growing backlash against vaping. Michigan recently banned the sale of e-cigarettes with flavored vape liquids in particular coming under fire.

Increasingly, stories are cropping up about vape-induced lung damage. Hundreds of people have been affected with 6 deaths reported.

With that said, it can be difficult to know which way to turn when you’re trying to quit smoking. Are you leaping from the frying pan straight into the fire? Are you exposing yourself to the risk of lung damage?

We have no direct answers for you and research is still aggressively underway. What we would suggest is that you speak openly with your doctor if you intend to start vaping. The jury is still out for now on vapes so that’s not why we’re here today.

Instead, we’ll highlight the differences between smoking and vaping so you can generally broaden your understanding. As with all aspects of addiction and dependence, the more you educate yourself about a given habit, the more chance there is you can break it.

You don’t need vapes any more than you need cigarettes. You’ve simply conditioned your body to depend on nicotine, a worthless toxin. If you’re thinking of stopping smoking, perhaps this brief study of what’s in smoke might push you further away from that next pack of cigarettes…


What Is Smoke?

Smoke is a collection of particulates (solid, gaseous, and liquid) that result from combustion.

When any substance hits auto-ignition temperature, combustion occurs and the substance catches fire.

Since combustion is a series of quick-fire and turbulent chemical reactions, it leaves behind a significant number of toxic by-products.

In fact, smoke contains a staggering 4000 chemicals with cigarette smoke tainted by no less than 7000 discrete chemicals. Among these unsavory toxins, there are 250 chemicals known to be damaging including carcinogens. Almost 70 chemicals in cigarette smoke are linked to cancer.

So, many of the health risks linked to smoking are a direct result of combustion. Whatever you light up, that smoke will contain toxins. And when what you’re lighting is as poisonous as a cigarette, it’s not good news to start polluting your lungs with the result.

The tobacco in cigarettes is not left in its natural state. Instead, it’s treated with chemicals so the nicotine absorbs more rapidly and the tobacco burns quicker. From a sales standpoint, the faster cigarettes burn and the faster nicotine is introduced, the more cigarettes people will smoke. This is the core reason ammonia is used in cigarettes. While obviously not healthy to consume, ammonia speeds up nicotine absorption in the brain.

So what else is in cigarette smoke?


What’s In Tobacco Smoke?

According to the American Cancer Society, some of the chemical by-products in cigarette smoke include:

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


What Is Vapor?

Vapor is the product of vaporization rather than combustion.

Where with a cigarette, you take a puff then exhale smoke, when you inhale on an e-cig, you’ll be exhaling vapor.

When you heat liquid to the point where it’s converted into a gas, vapor is the result. This is what you inhale when you use an electronic cigarette. No combustion is involved. No smoke is produced.

The vaporization process doesn’t alter the chemical makeup of the liquid. Think about water… When it’s boiled, the resultant steam remains H2O, albeit in gaseous form.

Unlike smoking, vaporizing doesn’t introduce new substances or chemicals.

Vaporizers are designed to heat liquid – called vape juice or e-liquid – to the stage of vaporization. Steer clear of cheap and low-caliber devices since these can end up burning the juice instead.

So, when this process takes place and the substance is in its gaseous form, that’s what we know as vapor. What’s in it, exactly?


What’s In Vapor?

The primary ingredients of e-liquid are vegetable glycerin (VG) and propylene glycol (PG). You’ll also find nicotine and various flavoring.

The ingredients of the e-liquid that are converted into vapor include propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, nicotine, and flavoring.

While vapor doesn’t appear to significantly impair air quality in a room, you should still avoid vaping in close proximity to others.

Many reports of toxins found in vapor are the result of burning the liquid through overheating. Make sure you use the vaporizer in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations.

As we mentioned, vapor consists of the substance in liquid form so if there were any contaminants in the e-liquid, these will be present in the vapor. You should only ever buy juice that’s been manufactured in a pro-grade lab.

So, with smoke containing a huge roll call of toxins and vapor containing the ingredients of the juice but in gaseous form, we’ll dive down a bit deeper now into those chemicals that could lead to potential injury.


Smoking vs Vaping: The Chemicals

It doesn’t really matter whether it’s smoke or vapor that you’re taking into your lungs, you can expect some health implications from this.

We’re already lucky enough to have ample evidence outlining the ravages of smoking over the long-term. This information is simply not yet available with vapes.


Smoking: Chemicals

When you burn tobacco, you’re exposed to thousands of chemicals as we mentioned above.

Among these chemicals, you’ll find 20 or more carcinogens. Nicotine is the addictive chemical that causes you to want more. As well as nicotine, cigarettes also contain the following carcinogens:

  • Ammonia
  • Arsenic
  • Benzene
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Formaldehyde
  • Hydrogen Cyanide
  • Lead
  • Nitrosamines

Many of these chemicals are strongly linked to serious health conditions from cancer to heart and lung disease. Not present in the tobacco leaf, these chemicals only come to the fore as a result of combustion.

How about vaping, then? What can you find in those billowing clouds of vapor?


Vaping: Chemicals

With no combustion in the mix, vapor contains far fewer chemicals. Alongside nicotine, you can also expect to find:

  • Acetaldehyde
  • Nicotine
  • Nitrosamines
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Vegetable Glycerin

The remaining chemicals are due to the flavoring. This is where some of the potential safety issue lies. While these flavorings might be food-grade, they are tested with a view to being ingested not vaporized. To this end, we simply don’t know yet what the long term results of this will be.

At the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, 9 chemicals in the vapor from e-cigarettes appears on the list of reproductive toxins and carcinogens. Not all of these are found in all vape juices. While it’s still substantially fewer chemicals than you find in cigarette smoke, safety here is relative rather than absolute.

This leads us to question, then, is vaping really safer than smoking cigarettes or not?


Is Vaping Safer than Smoking Cigarettes?

The main difference between cigarettes and vape juice is that there’s no tobacco in vape juice.

While this is clearly an advantage, tobacco is far from the only rogue component of cigarettes. See above for the thousands of chemicals that also come to the fore when combustion takes place.

Smoking, as we all know, can cause lung cancer, breast cancer, heart disease and other serious diseases but these don’t usually develop until you’ve been smoking for decades. This year alone we’ve seen that lung-related issues as a result of vaping can manifest far more rapidly than that with the CDC reporting 153 instances of vape-related illnesses.

While the writing has been on the wall for some time with vapes, it’s only in recent months that evidence is emerging about more harmful effects.

The FDA has been aware of the “detectable levels of known carcinogens and toxic chemicals” in e-cigarettes since 2009 even in liquids labelled tobacco-free. One study showed vape cartridges contained formaldehyde at far higher levels than EPA recommendations. Another study revealed vape juice containing benzene, a common carcinogen.

The way the body reacts to many of the chemicals found in cigarettes can lead to long-term inflammation. This inflammation brings about chronic diseases from bronchitis and emphysema to heart disease. E-cigarettes contain many of these same chemicals, albeit in reduced numbers. That being the case, there’s no reason to imagine vaping dramatically lowers the risk of developing these diseases when compared to smoking.

More studies are unfolding as vaping matures.

The assumption is that e-cigarettes are safe because they are smokeless but it’s not as simple as that. A recent study showed that e-cigarettes can result in increased concentrations of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and airborne pathogens that could be harmful when inhaled. This established that while you might not get the same smell or sign of smoke, vaporizing can still negatively impact air quality indoors.

In the absence of long-term studies, we’re still not yet sure how harmful e-cigarettes will be in the long haul. It’s always tough to pick through the information available concerning vaping and it might still be too early to assume that vaping is a safe alternative to smoking.

The other safety angle that presents itself with vaping is the way devices can explode in the user’s face.

What happens in the long-term still remains to be seen but hopefully now you’re clear on the differences between smoking and vaping.


What To Do Next

Get in touch with us here at Landmark Recovery if you need further information on the safety of vaping or any other related issues. We can help with drug and alcohol addiction issues. If you or a loved one is dealing with these types of problems, you can reach out to our admissions team about our alcohol and drug rehab in Indiana.

recovery specialist available 24 hours a day at landmark recovery

Choose Recovery Over Addiction

We're here 24/7 to help you get the care you need to live life on your terms, without drugs or alcohol. Talk to our recovery specialists today and learn about our integrated treatment programs.

About the Author

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.