Difference Between Vapor and Smoke

Difference Between Vapor and Smoke

For people who know little about vaping, they consider vaping the same as smoking on many levels, mainly because of the production of "smoke."

This couldn't be further from the truth. Not only do smoking and vaping require you to use different tools that work differently, but the "smoke" produced is very different also. Vaping produces vapour, while smoking produces smoke. Here are the differences between smoke and vapour to help you understand the subject better.

Definition of Smoke

Smoke is a result of combustion. It's a result of new chemicals forming because of oxidation. Typically, smoke, especially from a cigarette, contains thousands of new chemicals that are different from those initially burned.

For smoke to be produced, fire is involved and is usually in direct contact with the substance it is burning.

Definition of Vapor

Vapour is formed when a substance becomes gaseous at a temperature that is lower than its point of combustion. The chemicals found in vapour are the same ones found in the vaporised substance.

An excellent example of vapour formation is the process of boiling water. When water boils, it forms vapour which has the same composition as the liquid water.

With vaping, no new compounds are formed, and the substance doesn't catch fire or combust. Therefore, oxidation doesn't occur, and there are no new chemicals created.

Differences Between Smoke and Vapor

Other than the different definitions, there are more differences between smoke and vapour:


The first and most notable difference between vapour and smoke is the chemical composition. Tobacco smoke, for instance, has over 7,000 different chemicals. Most of these are formed during the combustion process. A list of a few of the most common of these chemicals includes:

  • Cyanide
  • Ammonia
  • Formaldehyde
  • Arsenic
  • Acetylene
  • Chromium
  • Methanol
  • Ethylene Oxide
  • Cadmium
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Vinyl chloride
  • Nitrogen oxide

The chemical composition of vapour is also different. Unlike smoke, vapour is only comprised of the same chemicals found in the vaporised substance. As such, the composition of vapour will differ depending on the substance being vaporised.

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If you're vaping an e-liquid, the vapour is going to have the same compounds found in most vape liquids which are:

  • Propylene Glycol
  • Food grade flavouring
  • Vegetable glycerine
  • Nicotine (for nicotine-infused vape liquids).


Another factor that distinguishes smoke from vapour is the smell. When you smoke, the scent lingers in the room for a long time. In the case of chain smokers, the smell might be almost impossible to get rid of. Smokers might not notice the smell easily, but non-smokers and vapers can recognise it almost instantly, even for hours after the cigarette was smoked if the room was closed.

Vapour, on the other hand, doesn't have an irritating smell. The smell of vapour depends on the flavour of the vape juice inhaled, and it is quite pleasant. However, the vapour clouds are denser and take longer to dissipate. But the smell doesn't linger around for as long as the smoke does.


Smoke, especially from cigarettes has a residue that sticks and stains fabrics, furniture and walls. Tar is one of the main residues. It's a toxic resin and is often considered one of the riskiest compounds of smoking. It also stains everything it comes in contact with, including the teeth of the smoker.

Other by-products of smoking, like carbon monoxide, also make your walls dirty and leave a yellow tint on the surfaces.

The worst vapour can do is leave a blurry coating when exhaled close to glass surfaces. But this is easily cleaned, and even without any attention, it dissipates on its own. Vapour doesn't change the colour of the walls, fabrics or teeth, and it doesn't have that yellow tint either. Vapour doesn't age fabrics or furniture because it doesn't have any residue left clinging around.


Temperature is not a direct difference between smoke and vapour, but it's the basis from which the two compounds get their differences.

The temperature of cigarette coal is about 6000C at rest and rises to about 9000C during inhale. Typically, the smoke rapidly reaches room temperature when inhaled and exhaled. As such, the high temperature is not immediately noted.

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Vapour, on the other hand, is produced at much lower temperatures, typically around 2000C. The vapour exhaled is much cooler and comes out at a lower temperature than the surrounding room air. You can experiment with this by exhaling the vapour on your arm.

Closing Thoughts

After this analysis, it's clear that smoke and vapour have numerous differences despite having the same physical appearance. Everything about the two, from the composition, the smell and even some physical aspects, are different. The two by-products are produced at varying temperatures and from different compounds, making the distinct from each other.  

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