Smoking or ‘Vaping’: Which is the more Environmentally Friendly?


By now, you will more than likely be aware of how smoking cigarettes regularly can impact on your personal health. There’s the breathing problems which arise as a result of the build-up of tar in your lungs, premature aging and, in extreme circumstances, the onset of serious diseases such as asthma and even lung cancer, all of which can be hugely difficult to cope with.

Knowledge of the problems that smoking can cause someone’s health may be reason enough to give up, but what about its impact on the environment? By way of comparison, we have decided to see how an ordinary cigarette and its electronic equivalent stack up against one another in terms of their impact on the environment:

electronic-cigaretteOrdinary tobacco cigarettes

  • The typical cigarette, as found in a carton of 10, 20 or more behind the counter of a newsagent or tobacconist, contains a series of harmful chemicals which can cause serious collective damage when entering the atmosphere. The two most notable are benzene and carbon monoxide.
  • When emitted, the pollutants from a cigarette emerge as compacted particulate matter. In clusters, they can pollute the air in a small room, causing those nearby to inhale some of the smoke unwittingly.
  • Despite their size, a typical cigarette can emit as much as 23mg of particulate matter, which makes them quite potent in terms of their individual impact. The typical cigarette weighs just 0.9g, which shows how strong they are in terms of their pollutant properties.
  • Cigarettes can take a while to decompose, while the amount of material used for filters and wrapping can cause a serious problem with litter, especially if dumped in the sea, as any lingering chemicals could potentially poison the water.

Electronic cigarettes

  • E-cigs only omit a vapour which is made up primarily of water and nicotine, making them almost completely harmless to the environment.
  • They’re made largely from recyclable material, from the plastic casing to the metal made for the cartridges. This is something that cannot always be said of ‘old-fashioned’ cigarettes.
  • Some of cartridges used that contain the vapour which acts as smoke are refillable, which saves on material used to make them as well as on the packaging which is required.
  • Although they run using electricity, some electronic cigarettes are rechargeable, meaning that some replacement batteries are rarely needed as soon as they completely run out of power.
  • Another environmental benefit of electronic cigarettes is that, if used instead of their old-fashioned tobacco-based equivalent, less cigarette butts are left discarded on pavements, in bins or ashtrays, which means less material ends up being used.

James Dunworth from said: “A single cigarette may seem innocuous in terms of pollution. However, there are over one billion smokers in the world today. Even if the average number of cigarettes smoked per person was just 10, we’d be looking at over 365,000,000,0000 cigarettes being releasing smoke a year”

The main conclusion to be drawn is that the environmental impact of electronic cigarettes is far less pronounced than that of normal ones. They use less material, omit far less harmless chemicals and are built to last for quite a while. If taking the environment into account, then smokers could show off some of their green credentials by giving it up for good.