Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
If you’ve never used e cigarettes before, it’s not unreasonable to ask, “What do they smell like?”. Maybe you’re planning start vaping but simply want to know how e cigarettes smell before you take the plunge. Or, maybe you’re already a vaper and are wondering whether your e cig aroma can be detected by others. In either case, you probably want some reassurance that your vape smell won’t either annoy others or let them know you vape.
But do e cigarettes actually have a smell at all? And if so, what’s it like, and how easily can you detect it as a non-vaper?
Do e cigarettes have a smell?
E cigarettes do have a smell, though this is usually subtle, and no way near as noticeable or intrusive as cigarette smoke. How much smell your e cig produces and how long it lingers depends on various factors. These include where you’re vaping, effectiveness of odour ventilation and what kind of e liquid or e cigarette you’re using.
What do e cigarettes smell like?
On the whole, vapour from e cigarettes has a soft but distinctive scent which is on most occasions warm, sweet and heavy. And it can smell pleasant or not so pleasant depending on whatever flavour you’re vaping.
Go into any small high street vape store, close the door behind you and take a big sniff. Chances are you’ll get a sudden sickly-sweet waft of a thousand different mingled vape juice aromas. Coconut is usually the first smell to hit you, though there’ll probably be vanilla, bubble gum, cola and fruity notes, somewhere in the mix too.
This lingering whiff is what newcomers to vaping most likely think e cigarettes must smell like all the time. Luckily though, vaping doesn’t always smell as quite as bad as this.
Do e cigs make a smell like cigarettes do?
Smokers coming into vaping often want to hold onto the taste of cigarettes, and so tend to prefer tobacco flavours at first. But if e cigarettes can taste like cigarettes, does that mean they smell like cigarette smoke, too?
Although some e-cigs can produce a tobacco-like taste, e cigarette vapour smells nothing like cigarette smoke. This is because e-cigarette devices produce no smoke at all, but flavoured nicotine vapour instead. E cigarettes also generate a less acrid aroma than tobacco smoke. This smell is less likely to make you sneeze or make your eyes water like cigarette smoke does.
Some vape liquids containing real extracts of tobacco can give off an aroma of cigarettes. But this is a very soft fragrance of fresh tobacco, and not a smoky one.
What factors affect how e cigarettes smell?
In general, the “whiff ratio” of your e cigarette depends largely on the quality of whatever e liquid or refill flavours you throw into it. In other words, cheap e cigarette liquids and refills are more likely to generate harsher-smelling, lingering aromas than pricier ones.
That said, it isn’t impossible to find reasonably-priced flavours that still smell good. You can also make your own bespoke fragrances by mixing your own vape liquids.
The type of e cigarette you use is also a factor when it comes to managing smell levels. Direct lung devices generally produce much higher vapour volumes than MTL-type models (like pod vapes). And bigger clouds mean more smells.
Where you vape can also affect how much smell you give out, and how long it lasts. Generally speaking, vaping indoors rather than outdoors will make smells from your vape device more obvious to others. This is because vaping aromas tend to build up faster in confined spaces. Vaping in a poorly ventilated spaces can also make smells stronger.
Can e-cigarettes be odourless?
It is possible to buy e cigarette liquids and cartridges that give off almost no smell at all. Popular with “stealth vapers”, odourless refills and e liquids are an effective way to hide e-cigarette smells from others. Usually purchased as “nicotine shots”, these generally contain a mixture of unflavoured base liquid and nicotine.
That said, choosing a smell-free e cig liquid needn’t mark you out as a hooded fiend who likes to vape in secret. Odourless vape liquids are a popular choice for indoor vapers who want to protect their homes from vaping smells, too.
Can you smell vape odour on someone?
It’s not usually almost impossible to tell if someone vapes just from the way they smell. And this is because quite simply there is often no obvious smell on a vaper’s clothing or skin to detect. E cig vapour only really sticks to clothing if a person has been vaping in a confined area for a long time. And smell on both skin and clothing may be masked with other fragrances such as perfume or deodorant.
Active e cig ingredients have no odour
The problem with trying to “sniff out” secret vapers is that the stimulant ingredients of e cigarette liquids are virtually undetectable to the nose. In other words, the only aromas you’re likely to pick up on vaping suspects are those of food flavourings. And you might be smelling these might be just because that person has just eaten a trifle. It’s hardly a smoking gun.
That said, some typical e cigarette fragrance combinations are very distinctive, and are a dead giveaway if you know what you’re looking for. Unlikely smell pairings like banana and mint, or coconut and bubble gum may give you a few clues. But you’ll probably need a bit more evidence than that before you can scream, “You’re busted!”