Smoking vs. Vaping – Choosing the Lesser of the Two Evils?

A Comparison of Smoking and Vaping

So you’ve heard the buzz about the e-cigarettes and are excited about quitting cigarettes and giving vaping a try, right? But before you jump straight in and join the vaping team, it’s vital that you thoroughly examine the facts.

Vaping: The Facts

Since electronic cigarettes deliver nicotine in the form of water vapor rather than burning tobacco, it’s easy for most people to imagine that vaping is more healthy than smoking. But is that necessarily true?

Vaping is still pretty new to the market, only having been around for about a decade or so. Since it hasn’t been part of the public as much as cigarette smoking, there’s a lot that people don’t know about it. Here, several aspects regarding the two habits smoking vs. vaping will be discussed to help you understand how they are similar or different.

This is one of the biggest questions throughout the vaping and smoking community. Previously, left un-answered due to the lack of research and statistics on the topic. Much has changed in the recent years, with many well-known researchers releasing papers on the subject to shed some light on the theories of others.

There are many aspects to be taken into consideration when making the comparison between vaping and smoking.

The Chemicals

Whether you’re taking combusted smoke into your lungs or vapor, there are going to be some quite serious health implications that come along with it. The health implications of smoking are a lot more defined and outlined, with vaping being a little more mysterious in the long term. Here’s a summary of the most common health implications found by researchers for both smoking and vaping.


The process of smoking includes the combustion of tobacco; created out of thousands of chemicals including at least 70 that have a strong connection to cancer, referred to as “carcinogens”. Some of the most well-known chemicals include:

  • Nicotine – The addictive chemical, gives the user the desire to want more. When people say they’re addicted to smoking, they’re addicted to nicotine.
  • Hydrogen Cyanide
  • Formaldehyde
  • Lead
  • Arsenic
  • Ammonia
  • Benzene
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Nitrosamines
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

As mentioned above, many of the chemicals listed above have a strong connection to some leading health conditions, including; cancer, heart disease and lung disease. These chemical elements are not found during the process of creating a cigarette, the chemicals start to occur when the tobacco leaf is combusted, producing the “smoke” in smoking (, 2017).


The main process of vaping removes the need to combust anything, removing a handful of the harmless chemicals listed above. This is where many people get the assumption that vaping is safer than smoking. Studies on the vapor produced from vaping suggest there is a significant difference between the number of carcinogens found compared to cigarette smoke. With over 20+ found in cigarette smoke compared to only a few in the vapor. Here are the most some of the most well-known chemicals found in vaping:

  • Nicotine – The addictive chemical, gives the user the desire to want more. When people say they’re addicted to smoking, they’re addicted to nicotine.
  • Propylene Glycol (Vegetable oil)
  • Vegetable Glycerol
  • Acetaldehyde
  • Nitrosamines

Most other chemicals are found in the flavoring of the vape liquids. Many of which are found to be food grade and typically safe to consume. This leads to the biggest question and the area in which research is not yet available, these flavorings are designed to be ingested not vaporized and inhaled. The long-term effects of this process are yet to be identified (, 2017).

Exploring Health and Safety

This concerns the broader image of health and safety, not just health conditions. Comparing some of the stories and past experiences with smoking and vaping, which one is the safest habit to have around in your day to day life?


For many years, smoking has caused incredible health and safety concerns throughout the world. Because of this, legislations have been put in place to help prevent some of the more serious risks. By far the most common health and safety concern for smoking, people saw dramatic risks concerning smoking-material fires:

  • Material Fires – A report by John R. Hall, Jr named “The Smoking-Material Fire Problem” (Hall, 2017), outlined some incredibly surprising statistics on this subject. “In 2011, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 90,000 smoking-material fires in the U.S.” It’s estimated that a total of 540 people died as a result to these incidents, with 1,640 injuries and a total of $621 million in direct property damage.Between 1980 and 2011, there has been a decrease of around 73% in the amount of smoking-material fires. This is thought to have been a result of standards and regulations put in place for the fire-proof standards of mattresses and furniture. Also, more recently cigarettes have adopted more “fire-safe” requirements, ensuring the risk is much less.As mentioned above, “fire-safe” requirements were put into place for cigarettes in 2003, seeing a 30% decrease in smoking-material fires in the US throughout 2003-2011. Determined by ASTM Standard E2187-04, the strength of the ignition or ember in cigarettes had to be reduced, ensuring dropped cigarettes would not combust anything else. Alongside this, in 2007 the smoke-free legislation was introduced in England banning smoking in most enclosed work and public places.


Compared to smoking, the studies suggest that vaping has a significantly lower level of health and safety risks. However, it has still seen its problems. E-Cigarettes had problems with the batteries, causing extreme health and safety concerns:

Exploding Batteries – The release of E-Cigarettes in 2007 saw a huge issue with the batteries exploding. Although unclear on what the main cause of this issue was, research papers and reports suggest it was most common in devices being charged, having a physical connection to copper coins and the use of unregulated mechanical mods. A comprehensive list was created by, compiling all known explosions throughout the history of vaping. Providing some extremely useful data analysis on this subject (Staff, 2017).

Since the launch in 2007, they found a total of 243 reported e-cigarette explosions:

  • 63 explosions during use.
  • 84 explosions during charging.
  • 52 explosions during transport, storage or unknown circumstances.
  • 44 explosions involving spare batteries for mods.

Of the 243 incidents, 158 resulted in personal injuries.

It’s thought that most explosions occurring before 2015 involved no injuries. Due to the dramatic increase of battery size in the recent years of vaping, it’s thought that the injuries from explosions will be far greater than ever recorded before. However, there has been significant advances in the health and safety of batteries and devices ensuring you’re far less likely to come across an issue like this, when used, stored and traveling with under the correct conditions.

Comparing the two, smoking has seen a dramatically larger amount of issues with health and safety. However, due to the lower number of users and the time that vaping has been common; in the future, we may see an increase of issues.

Cost Implications

The cost to use is one of the main factors for anyone using vaporizers or cigarettes. With vaping having a much larger initial cost to purchase the hardware, it’s often seen as the more “expensive” option out of the two. In the bigger picture, this is far from the truth. There are plenty of papers and statistics available to find out the cost of smoking, however, this will heavily depend on the amount you smoke per day. A research by Tobacco Control (Control, 2017) found that throughout a single day the average cigarette intake is around 5:

  • Smoking – A pack of 20 cigarettes costs around $13 in New York. We can assume that give or take, the average smoker will purchase 5 packs a week ($65) adding up to around $260 a month or $3120 a year (and pack-a-day smoker will spend even more – $4368, not counting the health-related costs and increased insurance prices).
  • Vaping – To purchase an e-cigarette starter kit that will last at least a year, you would have to spend around $50, this is the most expensive part of vaping. Once you’ve purchased a vape starter kit, you can expect to spend around $15 per week for a bottle of juice (if you vape a lot), $60 a month or $720 a year.

From the calculations above, you can clearly see that vaping is a much cheaper alternative. You have a lot more control over the juice you’re using with your vaporizer, having the ability to have 1 or 2 puffs whenever you need it. However, with vaporizers being a lot more accessible, it’s been found that smokers transitioning to vaping will vape a lot more than they smoked.

Is vaping safer than smoking?

There’s an ongoing debate on whether vaping is safe or not, and if it is an effective smoking cessation method or not.

According to a report sponsored by UK’s Department of Health and published by Public Health England – a prestigious group of highly qualified scientists, researchers, and public health professionals – electronic cigarettes are at least 95 percent safer than tobacco cigarettes. The report also recognizes their potential as a viable approach to quitting smoking. 

In the US, however, electronic cigarettes are looked upon nearly as evil a product as tobacco cigarettes. Quite interestingly, the American Heart Association (AHA) took a rather cautious stance in contrary to the popular belief in the country. In the 20-page statement published in 2014, the AHA suggested that e-cigs are less hazardous than tobacco cigarettes, and vaping can actually help smokers quit. Here’s a small section copied from the report:

“E-cigarettes either do not contain or have lower levels of several tobacco-derived harmful and potentially harmful constituents compared with cigarettes and smokeless tobacco… [e-cigarettes] present an opportunity for harm reduction if smokers use them as substitutes for cigarettes.”


Don’t Find Yourself on The Wrong Side of The Law

Legal issues are where the debate over vaping and smoking heats up. Cigarette smoking has been increasingly prohibited in public spaces, first in airlines, then in government buildings, and now almost universally indoors or too close to buildings. Some countries have looser restrictions than others, but mostly you’ll have to smoke in a designated area while in public places or just wait until you get home.


When comparing vaping and smoking, there are many different aspects to take into consideration. In the bigger picture, the only thing throwing a little bit of shade on vaping is the long-term effects, something that only time can unveil.

Bibliography (2017). Harmful Chemicals in Tobacco Products | American Cancer Society. [online][Accessed 5 Jul. 2017]. (2017). Smoking vs. Vaping – Chemicals – [online][Accessed 5 Jul. 2017].

Hall, J. (2017). NFPA report – The Smoking-Material Fire Problem. [online][Accessed 5 Jul. 2017].

Staff, e. (2017). E-Cigarette Explosions: Comprehensive List – eCig One. [online] [Accessed 5 Jul. 2017].

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