Cigarette and e-cigarette: what are the differences?

Cigarette icon image

(picture:, vickygharat)

It is clear that conventional cigarettes and e-cigarettes can be clearly distinguished. But where exactly are the differences, also from a scientific point of view? The health side in particular plays an important role for many of the questioners. It is widely known that tobacco cigarettes are harmful. But is the electronic cigarette healthier or do steamers go from bad to worse? This article takes a closer look at the differences from a medical perspective and explains what is important when it comes to the e-cigarette.

The differences at a glance

The e-cigarette was developed back in 2003. In contrast to a conventional cigarette, no dried tobacco is burned here. Instead, a special liquid, also called liquid, is used. This is vaporized by a heating coil – so it is not smoke at all. First of all, it is important to note that an e-cigarette is not equated with tobacco heaters. This happens a lot in the vernacular, but there are various differences:

  • Tobacco cigarette – the tobacco is lit and burned. This creates both the smoke that is actively inhaled and the smoke that is permanently emitted from the cigarette due to the combustion process.
  • Tobacco heater – these models are filled with a capsule filled with tobacco. The device now heats the tobacco. However, smoke only arises when the start button is actively pressed. Passive smoke is therefore massively restricted.
  • E cigarette – it works without any tobacco-containing products. There is a vaporizer in the device that heats a small amount of the liquid filled in as soon as the switch is pressed. There is no smoke, but steam. This is inhaled immediately, passive vapor can hardly be detected.

But it is not only in these descriptions that tobacco and e-cigarettes differ. The differences are extremely diverse:

  • temperature – With tobacco cigarettes, the embers create temperatures of up to 850 degrees Celsius. The vaporizer in an e-cigarette only heats the liquid to a temperature that, depending on the model, is between 80 and 120 degrees Celsius.
  • Combustion products – Burning tobacco creates over 1,000 by-products, all of which are unhealthy. There are hardly any by-products in the e-cigarette. The liquid consists of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine, partly nicotine and flavorings. While the flavoring substances are also used in the food industry, propylene glycol and glycerin usually come from the medical sector.
  • nicotine – A tobacco cigarette always has a fixed nicotine level, a concentration of around 0.8 mg per cigarette is common. With the e-cigarette, the user decides whether and how much nicotine he wants to consume. Depending on the chosen cigarette, he can purchase the liquid himself or mix it with nicotine-free liquid.

The effect of nicotine is also under consideration E-cigarette vs. Cigarette differently. If it works quickly with an ordinary cigarette, nicotine absorption with the e-cigarette is slowed down. Those who switch therefore often have the feeling that the e-cigarette is of no use to them. Often this is due to the fact that pulling is only carried out when the nicotine fatigue has already set in.

What is the health side like?

This question must always be viewed from a specific point of view. No serious retailer will advertise the e-cigarette as ‘healthy’ – but it is healthier than the tobacco cigarette. In general:

  • Healthier alternative – By eliminating the products of combustion and the possibility of low-nicotine or nicotine-free vaping, the e-cigarette serves as a healthier alternative for smokers. Particularly noteworthy here are carbon monoxide and irritating hydrocarbons or tar substances, which lead to deposits in the airways (anthracosis).
  • No alternative – the health aspect is lost for all non-smokers. Anyone who has never smoked or has long since quit smoking should not use an e-cigarette. All substances that are not inhaled are healthier than any liquid.
  • Studies – It turns out that studies have shown that e-cigarettes are a healthier alternative. However, it must also be remembered that there is not the mass of results that are available for normal cigarettes. Long-term studies are given the short history the e-cigarette only available to a limited extent. There are various studies that deal with the effects of tobacco smoke on health over the course of thirty years; the studies on e-cigarettes can primarily fall back on experience from ten years.

From a medical point of view, it is – apart from unexpected long-term findings – the lesser evil. Doctors continue to urge caution, of course, but in New Zealand the Ministry of Health scientists agree: Vaping reduces health risks noticeable.

The most common known problems have so far resulted from an intolerance to the ingredients of the liquid. However, the liquids are also available without propylene glycol. Another problem is known from the USA: The e-cigarette there, which is particularly popular with young people, has an extremely high nicotine content, which is banned in Europe.

What should be considered when buying?

There is not much that can be done wrong when buying e-cigarettes these days. Trying out a few devices is still recommended, because not everyone can handle all of the variants:

  • steam – Many e-cigarettes today produce a lot of steam, which is often warm. What one likes leads to coughing irritations in others. Sometimes devices with cool steam are more pleasant.
  • security – The devices require the CE mark and should only be purchased from reputable sources. The power comes from a battery that has to comply with safety regulations.
  • Liquids – They are the most important good of the e-cigarette. Whether pods or liquid bottles are required depends on the model. High quality based on medicinal ingredients and flavors from the food industry is important.

Many questions about the e-cigarette depend on your own needs and likely use. There are many users who prefer to mix their liquids themselves or to provide the vaporizer with the wire themselves. Others want to experience vaping as they are used to from smoking: open the box, remove the cigarette, light and enjoy. For these users, e-cigarettes with pre-filled pods are ideal.

Conclusion – healthier, not healthy

Combustion versus evaporation, solids versus options. The tobacco cigarette and the e-cigarette differ in almost all respects. The only common denominator is that smoke and vapor are both inhaled. In this regard, the e-cigarette – as of now – is at least much healthier and therefore a good opportunity for those switching to live their vice without endangering themselves too much. But there are still no real long-term studies and the quality of the e-cigarette and the liquid must always be considered.


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