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Is it cheaper to vape or smoke?

Many people turn to vaping as an alternative to traditional cigarette smoking. There are several reasons why someone may want to make the switch from smoking to vaping, including health, accessibility, and cost. When looking at the financial costs of vaping compared to smoking, the answer is not always straightforward. There are several factors that contribute to the overall costs of these habits over time. By evaluating the upfront device and juice costs, maintenance costs, frequency of use, and more, we can get a better idea of the true comparative costs of vaping versus smoking.

Upfront Costs

When first making the switch from smoking to vaping, the most obvious cost difference is in the upfront equipment and accessory purchases. Let’s compare what’s needed to start vaping versus smoking:

Vaping startup costs:

  • Vape device/vape pen – $20-$200+ depending on style and features
  • Extra coils/atomizers – $10-$40
  • Batteries or a power bank if device is not rechargeable – $10-$50
  • E-juice – $5-$20 per 30ml bottle
  • Other supplies like cotton, wire, tanks, etc. – $5-$50

So an initial investment when first switching to vaping can easily cost $50-$500 or more depending on the type of device and accessories selected. However, it is possible to get started for under $50 in some cases.

Smoking startup costs:

  • Pack of cigarettes – $5-$12 per pack
  • Lighter – $1-$5 typically

In general, smoking has a much lower initial startup cost. The only necessities are a pack of cigarettes and a lighter, which can cost under $20 to get started. Of course there are also luxuries like cigarettes cases and fancier lighters that can drive up costs, but the basics are very affordable.

Maintenance Costs Over Time

The recurring costs of vaping and smoking add up over time. Here is a comparison of ongoing maintenance costs after the initial setup:

Vaping maintenance costs:

  • E-juice – $15-$60+ per month depending on consumption
  • Coils/atomizers – $5-$20 per month
  • Batteries – $10-$30 per year for replacement batteries
  • Device upgrades – Optional $20-$200 per year
  • Accessories – Optional $5-$50 per year for things like cotton, wire, tanks, etc.

Estimating an average of $25 per month for coils and juice, plus $20 per year for batteries, the yearly cost for vaping maintenance can total around $340.

Smoking maintenance costs:

  • Cigarettes – $1500+ per year assuming 1 pack per day
  • Lighters – $5-$10 per year assuming 1 or 2 replacements

For a pack-a-day smoker, the maintenance cost of smoking is around $1500 per year. This can vary based on how much someone smokes, cigarette prices in their area, and other factors, but is rarely below $1000 per year.

Clearly, the recurring maintenance and consumable costs of smoking traditional cigarettes add up to be significantly higher than vaping over time. Vaping requires more periodic investments in equipment like batteries and coils, but saves a lot of money by avoiding constantly buying cigarette packs.

Frequency of Use Comparisons

How often someone vapes or smokes also impacts the cost comparison. Let’s look at some examples:

Light Use:

For a light user who vapes or smokes just a few times per week, vaping is likely cheaper. Assuming 2 coils and a 60ml juice bottle per month at $50 total, plus 1 battery replacement per year, the annual cost would be around $170. For a pack-a-week smoker at $6 per pack, the annual cost would be $312 – nearly twice as much as vaping.

Moderate Use:

If someone vapes around 3 times per day or goes through 1 juul pod per day, their costs may be around 4 coils and 120ml of juice monthly at $100. With 1 or 2 battery replacements annually, their yearly cost could total around $340. For a half pack-a-day smoker at $7 per pack, the annual cost would be around $1,277. Vaping saves over $900 per year compared to smoking for moderate users.

Heavy Use:

A heavy vaping user may require 6 coils and 240ml of juice monthly at around $160, plus 2 to 3 battery replacements annually equaling $480-$700 overall per year.Comparatively, a pack-a-day smoker would spend $2,555 per year at $7 per pack. Once again, vaping adds up to substantial savings for heavy users.

In all frequencies of use, vaping is economically advantageous compared to smoking. The savings are most dramatic for heavy users with packs-a-day smoking habits.

Health Considerations

Another factor to consider beyond monetary cost is health. While research on vaping’s long-term effects is still relatively new, most evidence suggests vaping is less harmful than smoking combustible cigarettes. Here are some considerations:

  • Vaping exposes users to fewer harmful chemicals – cigarettes contain over 7,000 chemicals, hundreds of which are toxic. E-juice has far fewer ingredients.
  • Vaping may reduce the risk of certain smoking-related diseases over time. One Public Health England study found e-cigs are 95% less harmful than cigarettes.
  • Secondhand vape clouds contain fewer toxins and dissipate faster than cigarette smoke.
  • Flavored vape juice may have unknown effects with long-term use, warranting more research.
  • The CDC has reported some vaping-related lung illnesses, but mainly linked to black market and THC-containing products.

While vaping too frequently is inadvisable for anyone not already addicted to nicotine,evidence indicates it poses fewer health risks than traditional cigarette smoking. The reduced harm of vaping compared to smoking is a health benefit worth considering beyond just the financial savings.

Regulations and Social Perception

Legal regulations and public perception should also be considered when comparing vaping and smoking costs:

  • Many states have raised the minimum smoking age to 21, while some states are raising the minimum vaping age to 21 as well.
  • An increasing number of cities ban smoking in public places, but have less strict limitations on vaping.
  • FDA regulations on manufacturing and sales of vape products may raise costs for consumers in the future.
  • Public perception on vaping is increasingly negative, although still more widely accepted than smoking cigarettes.

These factors may make vaping more convenient than smoking traditional cigarettes depending on where someone lives. However, growing negativity towards vaping could change this in the future as new regulations emerge.


In conclusion, vaping currently offers significant savings compared to smoking traditional cigarettes. The upfront costs are higher, but recurring expenses for juice, coils, and device maintenance are far lower than buying cigarette packs. Vaping costs will vary based on frequency of use, but remain more affordable than smoking in all cases.

Beyond just monetary factors, vaping is widely believed to be less harmful than smoking for individual health. Regulations and public perception are still evolving, but vaping currently faces fewer restrictions than smoking cigarettes.

For all these reasons, vaping can be considered a more affordable option than smoking both financially and in terms of personal health and lifestyle factors. The savings may be small for light users, but become substantial for moderate to heavy smokers who make the switch to vaping.