Many people think smoke and vapor are the same things. However, apart from looking similar when exhaled, the difference between smoke and vapor are vast.
The vapor from vaporizers is often referred to as "vape smoke" but this very misleading and completely incorrect.
To understand why vape and smoke are so different, we must strip the two terms down to their definitions.
DEFINITION OF SMOKE
Smoke is the result of combustion. When combustion occurs, new chemicals form through the process of oxidation. Smoke contains thousands of new chemicals different from those initially burned.
Fire is what creates smoke. When you smoke a cigarette, a fire must be involved to create the smoke.
DEFINITION OF VAPOR
When a substance becomes gaseous, at a temperature that is lower than its point of combustion, it is considered vapor. The chemicals that are in vapor are the same as those found in the vaporized substance.
Vaporizing something is what happens when you heat water on a stove or kettle. When water begins to boil, it creates vapor. While the vapor is in a different state, it still has the same chemical makeup as the liquid water.
The biggest takeaway is the fact that vaporizing does not create any new compounds. Vapor maintains the same compounds as the substance that created it.
"VAPE SMOKE" IS NOT A CORRECT TERM.
WHAT CHEMICALS ARE IN SMOKE?
According to the American Cancer Society, tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 different chemicals with over 70 that cause cancer. A list of a few of the chemicals found in tobacco smoke is below:
- Carbon Monoxide
- Nitrogen Oxide
- Vinyl Chloride
- Ethylene Oxide
This is just a short list, but the number is enormous.
WHAT CHEMICALS ARE IN VAPOR?
Unlike smoke, when vapor gets created, no new chemicals are formed. The chemicals that are in a liquid are the same chemicals found in the vapor formed from the liquid.
Vape Liquids typically have four compounds(from reputable store or manufacturer). They include Propylene Glycol, food grade flavoring, Vegetable Glycerin, and Nicotine.
All four of those chemicals are FDA approved for human consumption.
WHAT ABOUT THE SMELL?
If you’ve ever been in the room after someone has smoked, you know that the smell tends to linger in the room for a long time. A room that someone has smoked in will maintain that smell indefinitely. That's why we insist people just call it vapor, not "vape smoke".
Smoke, in contrast with vapor, dissipates within minutes. Often, the scent of vapor is less intrusive and with certain flavors can be pleasant.
TAR AND CARBON MONOXIDE
One other difference between smoke and vapor is the presence of tar and carbon monoxide in smoke. Tar is a resin-like substance that tobacco produces after it gets combusted. Tar damages not only the lungs, but also contributes to the rotting of teeth.
Tobacco smoke also contains carbon monoxide. Tobacco produces this chemical when fire heats it to the point of combustion causing oxidation. Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that harms the body in numerous ways.
If you’re having trouble remembering the difference between smoke and vapor, or just want to have a convincing argument to tell your friends, think about the difference between the smoke produced by a campfire and the steam produced by a pot of boiling water. The smell from campfire smoke will linger on your clothes for days, while the water vapor won’t leave a smell and will disappear rather quickly.