Vape Smoke, Vapor And Smoke – What’s The Difference

By Dr. Annie Macpherson
Updated: 2019-09-14

What is Smoke?

Smoke is the result of combustion, the scientific word for burning. A substance will combust (or burn) when a small amount of energy is added, allowing the substance to react with oxygen in the air and break down into carbon. This reaction is the same for all kinds of combustion, and this is why fire is required to smoke a cigarette.

Combustion of any kind is generally considered a ‘dirty’ reaction. Smoke generated from combustion reactions is responsible for city smog and air pollution caused by cars, toxic substances in cigarette smoke, and even global warming from the industrial use of fossil fuels.

What is Vapor?

Vapor is entirely different to smoke. When a liquid reaches a critical temperature that is lower than it’s point of combustion, it will evaporate into a gas. When water is boiled, it creates steam, also known as water vapor. Water vapor consists of water, and no new substances are formed in the vaporisation process. When you take a drag from an e-cigarette, the e-juice is converted into a vapor of it’s own too. Just like steam, the compounds found in vapor are the same as those found in the un-vaporised substance (in this case, e-juice).

Health Effects of Smoke and Vapor

Combustion generates thousands of new and toxic substances in the form of smoke, that are entirely different from the initial substance that was burned. When you smoke tobacco, you inhale a resin-like substance known as tar, which contains carcinogenic substances and will stick to the inside of your lungs. Smoke also contains carbon monoxide, a highly toxic gas that binds to your red blood cells reducing their capacity to carry oxygen. Combustion is why so many toxic substances are found in tobacco smoke.

Vaping does not require combustion, meaning no smoke, and no new substances. Vapor has the same chemical makeup as the liquid substance, it is just in a gaseous state. It is relatively easy to investigate any harmful effects of vaping, as all the chemicals you inhale are ones found in your e-juice.


The other bad news about smoke is that simply put, it stinks. We are hard-wired to instinctively dislike the smell of smoke, because its presence means there is a hazardous situation we should avoid. Smoke also tends to stick to clothes and surfaces, leaving a bad smell that lingers for a long time.

The good news about vaping is that, like steam, vapor does not cling to clothes or surfaces, so it dissipates in minutes and very rarely leaves an odour behind.

What is Vape Smoke?

Some people refer to the vapor from e-cigarettes as ‘vape smoke’. This is an incorrect term that is misleading. Vapor and smoke are different things, and it is vapor that is produced from e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes are also known as vaporisers.

Below, we’ve summarised the key differences between vapor and smoke:

What is Vape Smoke

Dr. Annie Macpherson
Dr. Annie Macpherson

Annie has a PhD in Genome Stability from the University of Sussex. She has first-hand experience in cancer and human disease research. This allows her to provide us with new and unbiased insights into the ongoing research of the public and health effects of vaping. She loves an adventure, and has travelled through South East Asia and Australia working for Vaping Insider.