Vaping vs. Smoking: What’s the Truth?

smoking vs vaping what is the difference?

The vaping vs. smoking debate has intensified recently as people seek alternatives to traditional tobacco. Vaping products have gained popularity among youth and young adults. With that rise comes several questions: Is vaping more harmful than smoking, or healthier? Do they both contain toxic chemicals? Is there more nicotine in vapes or cigarettes? Which is better for the environment? And the list goes on.

Here’s your deep dive into the differences between vaping and smoking.

Health side effects of vaping vs smoking

Vaping vs. Smoking: Health Effects

Smoking tobacco cigarettes is one of the leading causes of preventable death. Cigarettes contain over 7,000 harmful chemicals, 70 of which can lead to cancer. Traditional cigarettes are also linked to several health issues, including:

  • Bronchitis
  • Heart disease
  • Emphysema
  • Infertility
  • Stroke
  • Weakened immune system

Cigarettes cause harm to more than just the person smoking, too. Secondhand smoke results in nearly 50,000 nonsmoker deaths every year. Traditional cigarettes also contain nicotine, a highly addictive chemical designed to keep you hooked.

Vaping is often perceived as less harmful than smoking because it doesn’t involve burning tobacco — however, that is untrue for kids whose brains are still developing. According to the Surgeon General’s website, vapes do NOT emit water vapor. E-cigarettes contain toxic chemicals, including ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs, flavorants linked to lung disease and heavy metals, such as nickel, tin and lead — not exactly ingredients you want floating around in your lungs.

Vapes and e-cigarettes are very popular with young adults and teens. While the long-term health effects on developing brains are still being researched, short-term health effects include:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Mood swings
  • Trouble focusing
  • Increased irritability

The differences between smoking and vaping

Compare and Contrast


Both traditional cigarettes and vapes include nicotine; however, traditional cigarettes contain nicotine derived from tobacco plants, while most vapes contain synthetic nicotine. Regardless of the type of nicotine, it is still highly addictive.

Many think vaping is a “clean” way to quit smoking. However, vapes and e-cigarettes have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an adequate cessation tool. Why? Because the nicotine levels are too high, and research about effectiveness is still uncertain. 

The safest alternative to traditional tobacco products is complete cessation — not vapes or e-cigarettes.


Vaping vs. smoking: What’s inside each?

Cigarettes Vapes and E-Cigarettes A few of the shared ingredients include:
Acetone Nicotine Benzene (used to make rubber cement)
Acetic acid Propylene glycol Lead (used to make batteries)
Ammonia Acrolein Cadmium (found in battery acid)
Arsenic Diacetyl Nicotine (used to make insecticide)
Benzene Diethylene glycol
Butane Nickel
Cadmium Tin
Carbon monoxide Lead
Formaldehyde Cadmium
Hexamine Benzene

All of them are harmful and can have long-lasting impacts. Traditional cigarettes include ingredients such as tar, methane and carbon monoxide, which cause a burning sensation. Vapes and e-cigarettes contain diacetyl, the synthetic chemical that gives vapes their flavor.

environmental impact differences of smoking vs vaping

Environmental Impact

It’s also important to bring up the environmental impact of vaping vs. smoking. To date, cigarette butts are the MOST littered item in the United States. Over 750,000 metric tons of cigarette butts make their way into the environment every year, including beaches, oceans, rivers, sidewalks and grasslands. While vapes and e-cigarettes don’t take up as much room, they do take longer to break down — including disposable vapes.

Under optimal conditions, it can take at least nine months for cigarettes to degrade, while e-cigarettes are NOT biodegradable. Every vape and e-cigarette that’s manufactured is here to STAY.

Littering is only one of many ways the tobacco industry negatively affects the environment. The manufacturing of e-cigarettes releases toxic chemicals into the air, damaging the ozone layer. Wildlife is also negatively affected by discarded tobacco and vaping products. Scientists have found both tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes in animal stomachs.

The debate of vaping vs. smoking comes down to this: Both cause more harm than good. The healthiest choice a person can make is to stop smoking completely — for the wellbeing of themselves and the people around them. If you or someone you know is thinking about quitting, there are free options! Call 1-800 QUIT NOW, text READY to 34191 or visit

If you want to help clear the air in Oklahoma, get involved in the fight against Big Tobacco. Together, we can make a healthy difference in our community.

Published by Tobacco Stops With Me on September 26, 2023