Introduced to the mass market in the U.S. in 2007, e-cigarettes, in the form of “vaping”, has grown in popularity, especially with people believing that vaping is a healthier alternative to smoking tobacco. However, despite these misconceptions being debunked in mainstream society, people are still gravitating towards the trend of using e-cigarettes. This could be largely due to the fact that vaping can be just as highly addictive as smoking tobacco. Although quitting smoking altogether may seem too difficult a task for many, there are many people that have successfully made the transition from smoking to being drug-free. In order to motivate oneself into making this transition, however, understanding the differences between vaping, e-cigarettes, and smoking are, the side effects as well as the withdrawal symptoms of each, along with how to get help for this addiction, may be of benefit to the user to maintain long-term sobriety from drugs.

What is the Difference Between E-Cigarettes, Vaping, and Smoking? Are E-Cigarettes and Vaping the Same thing?

Due to the increased popularity of vaping, many people are starting to raise questions on what similarities/differences e-cigarettes, vaping, and smoking have to each other. Becoming educated about these differences can possibly prevent someone from partaking in any method of smoking or may help increase the chances of someone seeking help for a smoking/vaping addiction. 

Vaping and E-Cigarettes

Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling aerosol produced by an e-cigarette or similar device. An e-cigarette is battery-operated and that has a cartridge inside filled with liquor usually containing nicotine, flavorings, and chemicals. Often nicknamed, “cigalikes”, e-cigarettes were created with the intention of looking and feeling like a traditional cigarette, however, unlike a traditional cigarette, e-cigarettes use a chargable or or disposable battery. The liquid inside the cartridge in an e-cigarette is heated into a vapor, which in turn is inhaled by the user. The vapor produced by this form of smoking is what gives the act of smoking e-cigarettes the name “vaping”. 

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Much like e-cigarettes, vaporizers use a rechargeable battery that heats an element in the device that in turn vaporizes the “e-liquid”. The difference between e-cigarettes and vaporizers is that vaporizers use a tank to hold the e-liquid while e-cigarettes use a cartridge. What this entails is that vaporizers do not have the “look and feel” of a traditional cigarette and tend to run larger in size than an e-cigarette.


Most people are accustomed to understanding what smoking a cigarette looks like and the health effects produced by smoking, but they may not know the difference between smoking and vaping and most importantly, the similar health implications vaping and smoking have to each other. The primary difference between vaping and smoking a cigarette is that e-cigarettes (vaping) do not produce tobacco smoke, but aerosol instead. This can mistakenly make someone believe that by avoiding tobacco, they are finding a “healthier” alternative to smoking. However, despite vaping seemingly being a less-risky choice for people trying to quit smoking, the varying amounts of toxic chemicals one is exposed to when vaping increases one’s overall risk of adverse health side effects. Furthermore, because e-cigarettes contain nicotine, addiction is still a source of concern for the user.

Health Side Effects and Withdrawal Symptoms of Vaping 

Although it is unknown just how damaging e-cigarettes can be on the human body, there is enough evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes adverse effects can be just as damaging to the body as smoking tobacco. Because e-cigarettes have nicotine in them, low doses of vaping may include side effects such as:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Eye irritation
  • Abdominal pain

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High doses may include:

Additionally, the FDA has reported ethylene glycol in some e-cigarettes and cancer causing substances in others. Furthermore, some e-cigarettes have caught on fire or have exploded because of faulty or malfunctioning batteries. Because nicotine addiction can have unpleasurable withdrawal symptoms, one can be kept in the vicious cycle of smoking in order to avoid these symptoms. Some common withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Headaches
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Hunger
  • Restlessness
  • Mood swings (feeling tired, cranky, angry, depressed)
  • Trouble sleeping/insomnia

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Withdrawal symptoms are typically the strongest in the first couple of days after quitting and get better over the following days and weeks, depending on the level of addiction severity.

Health Side Effects of Smoking and Withdrawal Symptoms

Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Nearly one in five, or more than 480,000, deaths are attributed to cigarette smoking each year. As such, smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer. According to the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, its estimated that smoking increases the risk: 

  • Of coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times
  • For stroke by 2 to 4 times
  • Of men developing lung cancer by 25 times
  • Of women developing lung cancer by 25.7 times

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Smoking affects every organ in the body and a person’s overall health, causing cancer almost anywhere in the body, including the:

  • Bladder
  • Blood (acute myeloid leukemia)
  • Cervix
  • Colon and rectum (coloretal)
  • Esophagus
  • Kidney and ureter
  • Larynx
  • Liver
  • Oropharynx (throat, tongue, soft palate, tonsils)
  • Pancreas
  • Stomach
  • Trachea, bronchus, and lung

Additionally, smoking can make it harder for a woman to get pregnant and if pregnant, can affect her baby’s health before and after giving birth. This could equate to: a low birth weight for the baby, preterm (early) delivery, stillbirth (death of the baby before being born), sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), ectopic pregnancy, or orofacial clefts in infants. Furthermore, smoking can:

  • Affect bone health 
  • Affect the health of teeth and gums and can cause tooth loss
  • Increase the risk for cataracts (clouding of the eye’s lens, making it hard to see)
  • Increase the chances of getting Type 2 diabetes mellitus
  • Cause inflammation in the body and decrease immune function 
  • Increase the chances of getting Rheumatoid arthritis 

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Sadly enough, this is just a minuscule list compared to all of the adverse health side-effects that smoking can have on the body. When it comes to withdrawing off nicotine from smoking, one can experience withdrawal symptoms as early as 30 minutes after their last cigarette, depending on the level of severity with addiction. Symptoms of withdrawal from smoking may include

  • Intense nicotine cravings
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Tingling in the hands and feet
  • Headaches
  • Coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Constipation and gas
  • Insomnia
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Weight gain
  • Depression

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Withdrawal symptoms when detoxing off tobacco are quite similar to smoking. Withdrawal symptoms usually peak within two to three days after detoxing off nicotine and usually subside/disappear after two to four weeks.

How to Quit Vaping or Smoking 

Because vaping and smoking are highly addictive since they both contain nicotine, it is imperative that one quit smoking/vaping as soon as possible in order to avoid any potential life-threatening health complications from occurring. While one can quit on their own, in order to have the best chance of long-term sobriety from drugs, it would be beneficial to seek the help of a medical professional or go to an inpatient/intensive outpatient drug rehab program that can provide guidance on best practices to avoid smoking, particularly at the early stages of detox when cravings are the strongest. 

Take control of your health. Make a plan and stick to it. Your future health and well-being depend on the action you take today.

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