Most people are not aware of significant differences between vapor and smoke. When comparing vaping (electronic cigarettes) and smoking (cigarettes), it is important to begin with a basic explanation of the difference between vaporization and combustion.
Vaporization is the conversion of a solid or liquid into a gas (vapor). When boiling water turns into steam, this is an example of vaporization. With e-cigarettes, a vapor is formed when the atomizer (battery-operated heating element) slightly heats the liquid nicotine solution, converting it into a fine mist. The mist resembles a puff of smoke, but it is little more than water vapor.
Combustion is the act or process of burning that involves a chemical reaction between one or more substances and oxygen. With cigarette smoking, tobacco is burned, creating smoke and other harmful products of combustion. Cigarette smoke contains chemicals that are harmful to both smokers and nonsmokers.
The vapor produced by e-cigarettes provides a physical sensation and flavor similar to that of inhaled tobacco smoke, yet does not involve smoke. E-cigarettes do not burn or use any type of combustion. Rather, they vaporize a solution of water, flavoring, propylene glycol, glycerin, and liquid nicotine (nicotine free liquid is available).
Aside from the nicotine, all the ingredients in the liquid solution are considered safe for use in food products. Propylene glycol and glycerin, which are the ingredients used to create the vapor, are both commonly used food additives. The vapor created by these ingredients are very similar to the mist created by fog machines.
The liquid solution of e-cigarettes vaporizes at a much lower temperature (40 to 65 degrees Celsius according to the FDA testing) than the temperature of combustion with cigarette smoking. Cigarettes typically burn at temperatures that range from around 600 degrees Celsius when smouldering to more than 900 degrees Celsius at peak puff temperatures.
Vaping e-cigarettes rather than smoking cigarettes offers many benefits:
E-cigarettes are a smoking alternative that reduce the health effects of harmful smoke and combustion products associated with burning cigarettes. While formal studies have not looked into the health benefits of using e-cigarettes, comments from users who have switched from cigarettes include: feel better, cough is gone, shortness of breath is gone, better sense of taste and smell, don't smell like an ashtray anymore, sleep better, no more wheezing, better lung capacity, and have more energy.