Vaping Vs Smoking

By Dr. Annie Macpherson
Updated: 2019-09-18

What is Vaping?

Vaping is the term coined for using an e-cigarette, because the user inhales vapour.

E-cigarettes are small devices that vaporise ‘e-liquid’ for the user to inhale. E-cigarettes are designed to provide an adjustable dose of nicotine, closely mimicking the act of smoking, without the carcinogenic compounds associated with tobacco smoke.

Having only been on the market for around a decade, we still don’t know the long term effects that vaping might have on your health. E-cigarettes have a global market value of over $10 billion [3].

what is vaping

Different types of e-cigarette.

Why is Vaping Different to Smoking?

When you vape, there is no smoke, no combustion, only vapour. Vapers can control their nicotine intake, allowing them to reduce dependence, by purchasing e-juice or pre-filled e-cigarettes containing their required nicotine content.

There are lots of different types of devices, and different flavour and nicotine strength e-liquids too. This means you have a greater choice for a personalised experience when you vape.

Vaping Versus Smoking Cigarettes

It isn’t hard for something to be labelled as ‘safer than smoking’. Let’s take a look at how vaping really compares to smoking:

Health Effects
When you smoke tobacco, the combustion reaction causes you to inhale a resin-like substance known as tar, containing carcinogenic substances that stick to the inside of your lungs. Smoke also contains carbon monoxide, a highly toxic gas, that binds to your red blood cells. There is a lot of research published on the damaging effects of smoking – it’s estimated that 67% of smokers will die early from a smoking-related disease [4].

Although the long-term effects are still uncertain, this really doesn’t seem to be the case with vaping. Experts believe vaping could even be 95% less harmful than smoking, with limited short term effects on your health [1].

Social Impact
We are hard-wired to instinctively dislike the smell of smoke, due to its inherent association with danger. When you smoke, it stinks. Smoke sticks to clothes and surfaces, leaving a lingering smell. As a smoker, you might often feel self-conscious and as though others pass judgement.

The good news about vaping is that, like steam, vapour does not cling to clothes or surfaces. It dissipates quickly, so getting your nicotine fix does not have to leave behind a bad, lingering odour.

Smoking is also becoming expensive. Governments are steadily increasing tax on tobacco products, in an attempt to discourage consumption. Vaping can be far cheaper than smoking, if you choose standard e-liquids and a basic device.

Addictive Potential
Scientists are just beginning to understand the mechanics of nicotine addiction. Since their release, e-cigarettes have been widely considered as ‘less satisfying’ than cigarettes. We now know that this is because our bodies find it harder to absorb nicotine from an e-liquid that from tobacco smoke, meaning the hit is slower when you vape [5]. This means that you are far less likely to become addicted to vaping than you are to smoking.

That said, the recent development of nicotine salts (a more natural structure of nicotine, also found in tobacco), has led to increased anecdotal accounts of individuals becoming heavily addicted to e-cigarettes [6]. Nicotine salt e-liquids are considered much more satisfying, and because of this, much more addictive.

Risk to Children and Pregnancy
Pregnant women should avoid smoking due to the increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Healthcare providers also recommend that children are not exposed to secondhand smoke, as it can lead to the development of asthma, and even SIDS.

Unfortunately, vaping can not be recommended for pregnant women either. Nicotine can affect a baby’s prenatal development, and scientists don’t know the effects that each of the inhaled e-liquid ingredients will have on a foetus.

There are no guidelines on the effects that secondhand vapour from e-cigarettes might have on children. However, propylene glycol, a key base used in e-liquid, is known to have a role in asthma development in children [7].

Existing Diseases
If you have cancer, lung disease or heart disease, research shows that smoking will most likely make your disease worse [8, 9].

On the other hand, when smokers with existing lung diseases transition to vaping, they generally report a drastic improvement of their symptoms [10]. Although more research needs to be done, this suggests vaping is far better for existing health issues than smoking.

Vaping Versus Smoking Cigarettes


Vaping is currently considered safer than smoking for most circumstances. Although vaping may still cause harm after long term use, it appears to be a far less damaging, and more affordable way to get your nicotine fix. If you choose to vape, you are taking the first steps to reducing your nicotine addiction in a more healthy way.

If you are looking to quit smoking, it is always best to consult your healthcare provider, to see what options will best suit your lifestyle and circumstances.


E-Cig Click


1. Public Health England E-cigarettes: an evidence update. A report commissioned by Public Health England [accessed 2018 October 18]

2. The Truth, Safer is not equal to Safe campaign [accessed 1 March 2019]

3. Mordor Intelligence – E-cigarette Market – Segmented By Product (Completely Disposable Model, Rechargeable but Disposable Cartomizer, Personal Vaporizer, Others), Battery Mode (Automatic E-cigarette, Manual E-cigarette), and Region – Growth, Trends and Forecasts (2019 – 2024). [accessed 1 March 2019]

4. Banks, Emily, et al. “Tobacco smoking and all-cause mortality in a large Australian cohort study: findings from a mature epidemic with current low smoking prevalence.” BMC medicine 13.1 (2015): 38.

5. Fearon, Ian M., Alison Eldridge, Nathan Gale, Christopher J. Shepperd, Mike McEwan, Oscar M. Camacho, Mitch Nides, Kevin McAdam, and Christopher J. Proctor. “E-cigarette nicotine delivery: data and Learnings from pharmacokinetic studies.” American journal of health behavior 41, no. 1 (2017): 16-32.

6. Medical Xpress – Juul e-cigarettes pose addiction risk for young users, study finds
by Stanford University Medical Center [accessed 1 March 2019]

7. PLoS One. 2010 Oct 18;5(10):e13423. Common household chemicals and the allergy risks in pre-school age children. Choi H, Schmidbauer N, Sundell J, Hasselgren M, Spengler J, Bornehag CG.

8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Among Adults—United States, 2011. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2012;61(46):938–43 [accessed 2018 October 18]

9. Smoking and Your Heart – national heart, lung and blood institute 2018 Statistics. [accessed 2018 October 18]

10. Polosa R, Morjaria JB, Caponnetto P, et al. Evidence for harm reduction in COPD smokers who switch to electronic cigarettes. Respir Res. 2016;17(1):166.

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.