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What’s the Difference Between Smoke and Vapor?

What’s the Difference Between Smoke and Vapor?

One of the greatest misconceptions about vaping is the vapor produced. Most people who don’t understand what vaping entails often confuse the vapour to be the same as cigarette smoke and this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Some people often refer to vapour as vapour smoke or smoking vapour. It’s often understandable since there are some visual similarities but that is as far as it goes.

What is smoke?

Smoke is a by-product of combustion. It occurs when chemicals are formed through the process of oxidation. It comprises of airborne solid and particles, and gases that are emitted when the material undergoes combustion.

The burning action alters the chemical and physical conditions of a substance which produces visible molecules of carbon molecules.

What is vapour?

Vapour is produced when a substance becomes gaseous at a temperature that is lower than its point of combustion. The composition of vapour is the same as that found in vapourised substances.

While the physical state changes when a product is vaporized, the composition of both the vapour and the initial substance is identical.

Ideally, what is produced when vaping isn’t vapour but rather aerosol. Aerosol is the suspension of fine solid, liquid or gas particles in the air.

When vaped, e-liquid turns into small particles suspended in the air that fall to the ground quickly. But since every vaper has adopted the term “vapour” let’s stick with that.

Differences between Vapour and Smoke

Save for the visual appearance, smoke and vapour don’t have much in common. They differ on almost every level and have distinct behaviours.


Both tobacco and some e-liquid blends have nicotine. But, tobacco contains thousands of other chemicals which alter the composition and characteristics of the smoke produced. Some of the chemicals found in tobacco smoke include;

  • Cadmium
  • Arsenic
  • Chromium
  • Methanol
  • Ammonia
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Vinyl chloride
  • Acetylene
  • Cyanide
  • Formaldehyde
  • Ethyle oxide
  • Ammonia

Vapes don’t produce water vapour. However, the vapour contains vegetable glycerine, nicotine, food-grade flavourings, and propylene glycol. With the exception of nicotine, the other compounds are safe to ingest.


Cigarette smoke lingers for a while after smoking, unlike vapour. Most smokers might not notice the smell but non-smokers and vapers will easily notice.

Vapour clouds are denser and more intimidating. They dissipate slower and stay visible for a long time but, they have a more pleasant smell that doesn’t stick around for long.

Why not also read: 8 Causes of Vapers Tongue


The smoke produced by cigarettes can stain clothes, fabrics and even walls and furniture. This is because smoke contains tar which is a resinous mixture that is notorious for staining anything it comes in contact with. Other compounds like Carbon monoxide also aid in giving the walls that dirty, yellow colour.

Vapour might create a blurry coating on glass because of the PG and VG ingredients. However, this is easy to clean. Vapour doesn’t stain fabrics and walls.


When resting, cigarette coal has a temperature of 600 degrees Celsius and rises to around 900 degrees when inhaling.

E-cigarettes produce much lower temperatures of about 200 degrees Celsius resulting in cooler vapour that is often cooler than the room temperature. You can verify this by exhaling the vapour onto your arm.

A good example to use when explaining the difference between smoke and vapour, is a campfire and boiling water. Campfire, in this case, represents the smoke while the vapour is represented by the boiling water.

The smell from the campfire lingers around for a while the water vapour doesn’t have a smell to it. This is the same aspects of cigarette smoke and vapour.

Why not also read: How to Update Firmware on Your Vape Mod?

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