Digital Vaporizers and E-cigarettes
(Last Updated On: July 13, 2016)

Ever wonder how e-cigarettes are any different from vaporizers? Although both devices are now redefining the ways we enjoy the pleasures we get with tobacco, cannabis and other favorites, it pays to know how one device differs from the other, and why, for example, a vaporizer, may be your perfect fit over the e-cig.

So, which one would you choose? A vaporizer or e-cigarette? Or, are they really different? Get to the bottom of this with today’s article. Read on!

The Birth of E-Cigarette

Image credit: Lenscap Photography/ shutterstock images

Since the 2003 invention of e-cigarette by a Chinese pharmacist in Beijing, people have started to marvel at the device’s promising results, hoping to end the harmful effects of traditional smoking and opening a whole new world of using nicotine without lung cancer, emphysema and other deadly side effects of such a global habit.

And so the rest is history. Suddenly, the world became abuzz with excitement because of the promising effects of the e-cigarette: delivering nicotine into the human body safely and efficiently, minus the smoke and the thousands of harmful chemicals that come along with it.

Today, walk into a vape store or scour for e-cigarettes online and you’d probably find yourself confused and puzzled about the different options right in front of you — and even growing by the day as the vaping world becomes more competitive.

If you wish to understand how e-cigs and vaporizers work, you’d be surprised to know that the only difference between the two is not on how they are technically different, but on how the two words gained that sort of exclusivity when referring to a certain function.

E-Cigarettes Vs. Vaporizers

When e-cigarette inventor Hon Lik invented the e-cigarette in Beijing, it became the new sensation because even without the use of fire, the device still produced clouds of vapor that looked like smoke but contained none of the harmful toxins otherwise present in real tobacco smoke. And to mimic the look and feel of real cigarettes, e-cig companies have developed devices that closely resemble the long and thin shape of the good old cigarette. Business sign somehow gives e-cigarette users that good old feeling of using their traditional tobacco cigarettes. And the result is now a booming economy worth billions of dollars in revenue across the world.

But just when the world has found a safer way of enjoying nicotine from tobacco, the use of marijuana has also become more popular especially in the last five years, when more states embraced the legalization of the herb’s medical and recreational use. So, if e-cigarettes enjoy the reputation of taking nicotine safely, there must be a term used to vaporize marijuana (or other herbs) too. Thus came the term “vaporizer,” or “vape” for short.

Because of the general consensus to create a generic word that describes a device that can vaporizer any material, the word “vaporizer” seems to be a fitting choice. Since then, it has become a very broad term that describes any device that features a heating element and a chamber in which the vaping material — which may be dry herbs, oil, wax or e-juice — is heated up to create vapor.

Today, there are three main categories of vaporizers: the pen-style, the portable, and the desktop vaporizers. The biggest models, the desktop vapes, can be as large as a blender and needs to be plugged to operate. They have the largest chambers to hold more of your herbs and concentrates, and in some models, an internal forced-air system that pushes the vapor out without requiring manual draws from users. The smaller models are the portable vaporizers, known for their relatively large chamber with attached rechargeable batteries so you could take one anywhere while unplugged.

The smallest vaporizers, the pens, are so-called because they closely resemble your ordinary office pen. In fact, when you look look closely at vaporizers that support liquids and e-juices, they aren’t any different from what others call e-cigarettes.

Editor’s Note:

Although some vaporizers such as the Magic Flight Box come in very simple designs without electronic circuitries (hence are not digital), we’ve compared the e-cigarette with digital vaporizers, particularly with vape pens, because both device categories share the same parts, functions and even the overall design. These similarities oftentimes cause much confusion in the vaping world, hence our focus on the digital vaporizers to be placed side by side with e-cigs.

With the Magic Flight Launch (MFLB), for example, there is no button to turn the power on or off, nor is there any digital safety mechanism that would turn the vape off when used for longer periods. So vaporizers such as the MFLB would be seen as distinctly different from e-cigs in many ways.

Why Use the Word ‘E-Cigarette’

E-Cigarettes Vs Vaporizers

Even if the e-cigarette functions the same way as the vaporizer pen, the e-cig enjoys an almost exclusive reputation of being associated with nicotine for those who wish to get their fix without the harmful effects of smoking. And the main reason why e-cigs are called as such because they are designed to look like cigarettes with their thin and cylindrical shape. Their sizes are also smaller than the ordinary vaporizer pens with the intention to look as close to the real cigarettes. And there are even some models that sport LED lights at the bottom tip that glow every time you take a draw from the device.

So, technically, the e-cigarette contains all the components of the typical vaporizer pen. Whatever brand or model you choose, most e-cigs come in three basic parts: the cartridge or a cartomizer the battery, and the mouthpiece. The cartridge of the typical e-cig contains and vaporizes the liquid material called e-juice, which contain the nicotine or other flavorings. To provide that thick cloud of vapor, e-juices usually contain propylene glycol, a vegetable based material that transforms into visible vapor when heated.

Chemicals Associated With E-Cigarettes

Ever wonder what that thick white vapor from e-cigs is made of?

When using e-cigarettes, the most common chemicals you’d more likely find in your e-liquid would be nicotine and some flavorings dissolved in a base made of propylene glycol (PG) or vegetable glycerin (VG) and water. These non-toxic carriers, which hold your active chemicals, also create that dense white clouds of vapor when heated up inside the cartridge. Now, you might ask whether these supposedly harmless substances are worth as healthful substitutes to real smoke. Let’s take a closer look.

Propylene Glycol

The first on the list is propylene glycol. This tasteless, odorless organic liquid is perhaps the most popular base because of its thin consistency, making it easy for the wick inside the cartridge to absorb the e-liquid. Before the introduction of e-juices in the vaping world, propylene glycol is already widely used as a solvent and preservative in food and tobacco products. Considered by the FDA as safe for consumption, this inactive liquid has even been used as a carrier of medications for intravenous injections, and has also been used widely in food and cosmetics. So, if this chemical has been used in other methods to deliver medicine in the human body, why won’t it be safe to inhale after all?

The downside of using e-liquids with PG is that your mouth becomes drier than usual. It is because PG is a potent humectant. But overall, we don’t see such disadvantage as too concerning among those who use PG. A small number of vapers also report allergic reactions to PG, which means the need to switch to vegetable glycerin (VG) base.

Vegetable Glycerin

If you want e-liquids that can produce thicker vapors, vegetable glycerin can achieve those dramatic effects. Like propylene glycol, this organic base has also been classified by the FDA as a safe compound, which e-juice makers use for thicker clouds. Vegetable glycerine has a somewhat sweeter taste than propylene glycol. And if PG sometimes leaves your mouth dry, VG has a slightly opposite effect, with some people reporting phlegm build up when using VG based e liquid for a longer period. And when it comes to health and safety, there have been almost nonexistent reports of VG causing any allergies or other health hazards. The only reason why other users use propylene glycol is that that the flavors are more pronounced because of its more neutral taste.


Who doesn’t know nicotine? This substance is perhaps the most widely inhaled stimulant in the planet. Yet, no matter what the good effects of this drug are, the health hazards commonly associated with smoking have been unfairly associated with nicotine too. Yes, smoking can lead to fatal diseases such as lung cancer and other respiratory disorders, but nicotine itself poses little risk when ingested at safe levels.

Because nicotine acts as a stimulant in the central nervous system, you experience about the same effects as caffeine’s. Vaping nicotine almost immediately results in improved concentration and can also increase your blood pressure as well as heart and breathing rate. So far, as long as nicotine is delivered in the recommended way, there is little risk of overdose.

However, take proper caution when handling e-juices that contain this drug, particularly out of children’s reach. Nicotine, just like other psychoactive drugs, is addictive. Hence, products such as gum patches and e-liquid can also lead to addiction when taken at very high concentrations. And as we just mentioned, keep your e-juice out of your kids’ reach as ingesting it might cause nicotine overdose, in some cases resulting in death.


Because nicotine, although a little bitter in taste, is almost tasteless when mixed with the e-liquid for your e-cigarette, e-juice manufacturers usually add flavors to make your vaping experience more satisfying. Today, they are about more than 100 different flavors available – from the classic tobacco flavor to menthol to chocolate. Just name it and they have it all for you.

Because of the growing popularity of the e-cigarette, even do-it-yourself instructions for making your own e-juice formula can easily be found on the Internet. We do not recommend such DIY concoctions because some of the food flavorings mentioned are designed to be ingested through the digestive system and not vaporized or inhaled.

Chemicals Associated With Vaporizers

Because vaporizers are associated more with herbs, particularly cannabis, Chemicals we are dealing here with will be more on cannabinoids. And if the main substance found in tobacco is nicotine, the cannabis counterpart would be Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), while the rest would be the more than 80 distinct chemicals, the effects of which have yet to be further studied through more research.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (YHC)

How else will we ever experience the pleasures cannabis brings without Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)? Yes, this psychoactive compound is primary cannabinoid that mimics the neurotransmitters that naturally make us feel the highs in subtle ways. Besides its main actions in our brain, THC has also been reported to have analgesic effects, the reason why medical cannabis is very effective in alleviating physical pain among marijuana users.

Cannabidiol (CBD)

Although much credit goes to THC for its psychoactive effects, another cannabinoid, CBD, deserves more attention when it comes to the therapeutic effects of marijuana. This non-psychoactive chemical is the most abundant in any cannabis plant and accounts for almost half of cannabis extract. And while THC is known to give that pleasurable high, cannabidiol interestingly lowers anxiety levels and has also been found to counteract the effects of THC. Some studies even suggest that mammals with THC-induced memory loss benefit from cannabidiol.

In other studies, CBD has shown antipsychotic effects, hence a good candidate in the treatment of schizophrenia. In addition, the same cannabinoid has been found to limit the growth of cancer cells. Such promising findings continue to come to light, as more studies on the effects of marijuana use are now under way.

If you wish to get the most out of THC’s effects, we suggest using Sativa varieties because they contain relatively more THC  in proportion to the other cannabinoids. And for therapeutic benefits, go for the Indicas, which contain more of the cannabidiol and other cannabinoids relative to THC.

Cannabinol (CBN)

If there’s one chemical in cannabis that makes you sleep, give thanks to CBN, a slightly psychoactive cannabinoid found only in small quantities in any cannabis variety. The sedative effects of CBN prove beneficial for those suffering from insomnia and problems in their sleeping patterns. Other studies suggest CBN may also have antibacterial properties, especially against drug-resistant MRSA.

Because CBN forms after the chemical degradation of THC, fresh cannabis herbs contain very little of this cannabinoid. Only when the herb is dried and stored for longer periods will CBN increase in quantity. So, vaping dry herbs would bring out the best of CBN.

Other Cannabinoids

As we’ve mentioned earlier, there are more than 80 known cannabinoids in a single cannabis plant, and that means more room for research. It makes sense to say that we’ve only scratched the surface in terms of understanding the many benefits of cannabinoids.

Editor’s Note

Vaporizers, while they are here for as long as we know it, may still be unfamiliar to you. If you want to learn and understand more about the vaporizers, we encourage you to take a look at the following articles:

Wikipedia: Vaporizer (Inhalation Device) The 6 Ultimate Pen Vaporizers (And Why You Should Start Using Them) 

Quitting Smoking? 7 Steps to Successfully Give Up Consumption 

Top 5 Vaporizers for Your Best Vaporizing Experience 

The bottom Line Between E-cigarettes and Vaporizers

Simply put, the word “vaporizer” is a broad term that may include desktops, portables or pens. And under the pen-style category, in a technical way, it makes sense to say that e-cigarettes belong to this family distinct for its long, cylindrical design. Only that e-cigarettes come with features that best mimic the look and feel of real cigarettes.

So, as is clear to see these two items provide different uses depending on the specific need. Even though they’re far from chalk and cheese in their nature, they are utilized for different reasons as you can understand from the aforementioned.

What are your thoughts about differences of e-cigarettes and vaporizers? Why will you choose one over the other? Please let us know on the comments below.

Written by Derek_Devlin