“What do e-cigarettes taste like?” "Does tobacco vape taste like cigarettes?" It’s probably the top question asked by people who are thinking about making the switch to vaping. Specifically, what those people want to know is what tobacco e-liquids taste like. There’s hardly an e-liquid maker on the planet that doesn’t offer at least one tobacco flavour, which makes complete sense. It’s likely that most people get started with vaping hoping that an e-cigarette will be a one-to-one replacement for tobacco cigarettes – that they’ll be able to put their cigarette down and pick up an e-cigarette without noticing any differences in the way the experience feels or tastes.
As you might expect, though, vaping doesn’t quite work that way. So, what do tobacco vapes really taste like? The answer isn’t actually so simple.
To understand why tobacco e-liquids are so different from tobacco cigarettes, the first thing you need to understand is how tobacco e-liquids are made and what’s actually in them. In a typical “tobacco” e-liquid, there is no tobacco or tobacco derivative with the exception of the nicotine. Pharmaceutical-grade nicotine is over 99-percent pure and has none of the compounds that give tobacco its unique flavour. The goal in developing a tobacco e-liquid, then, is to create a flavour profile that resembles tobacco using nothing but food-grade flavouring compounds. You’re never going to find any combination of food-grade flavours that completely captures the smoke of burning leaves, but it is possible to create something that stimulates the palate in a very similar way. What are some of the adjectives that come to your mind when you think about the flavour of tobacco? These are some of the words that might come to your mind.
The goal in creating a tobacco e-liquid, then, is to find a combination of flavouring agents that captures some of those notes and creates a tobacco-like accord on the palate.
As you can probably imagine from what you’ve read so far, there is quite a lot of variety among the different tobacco e-liquids on the market. You can’t possibly cram all of the flavour notes mentioned above into a single vape juice, so it’s a matter of choosing the notes that exemplify the type of tobacco you’re trying to capture in vapour form. Most of the companies that make food flavourings do offer “tobacco” flavours. You can’t just add a few drops of tobacco flavouring to an e-liquid and call the result a tobacco vape juice, though; if you don’t augment it with other flavours, the result will either taste overly simplistic, or it’ll have a chemical aftertaste. How, for instance, would you describe the flavour of Turkish tobacco? You might use adjectives like “rich,” “nutty” and “sweet.” One way of capturing the flavour in e-liquid form might be to start with a tobacco base and enhance it with hints of caramel and almond. The flavour of clove, meanwhile, could help an e-liquid to capture something of Virginia tobacco’s characteristic spicy flavour. Every flavour developer in the e-liquid industry has a slightly different idea of what a tobacco e-liquid ought to taste like, and that’s a great thing for you. It means that you can try every tobacco vape juice that you can possibly find, and you’ll probably never have exactly the same experience twice.
Everything that we’ve said so far in this article is essentially a long way of saying that tobacco e-liquids definitely don’t taste like cigarettes. Now, though, at least you have a good understanding of why that’s the case. Now, here’s the next question. If tobacco e-liquids don’t actually taste like cigarettes, does it really matter? There are dozens of e-liquid flavour profiles ranging from cinnamon-tinged cereal flavours to vape juices that taste like frozen fruit smoothies. The tobacco flavour profile is just one section of an incredibly large tapestry – and while there are easily tens of hundreds of different e-liquid flavours out there, a cigarette can never taste like anything but a cigarette. In 2018, Harm Reduction Journal published the results of a major survey in which nearly 21,000 adult e-cigarette users in the United States were asked about their e-liquid flavour preferences. Among those who had used vaping as a means to quit smoking, tobacco wasn’t the most popular flavour. It was actually a fairly distant fifth place. These were the six most popular flavour profiles mentioned by survey respondents who were former smokers:
The survey suggests that, while many of the smokers who switch to vaping may begin with tobacco e-liquids, they ultimately find that they prefer other flavours. You should keep that fact in mind as you embark on your own vaping journey. Although it’s perfectly natural to choose a tobacco flavour when you buy your first e-liquid, you should never stop experimenting with other flavours. The data suggests that, in the long run, tobacco probably won’t be your favourite e-liquid flavour.
It is possible that you’ll experience some disappointment when you try a tobacco e-liquid for the first time and realise that it doesn’t actually taste like a tobacco cigarette. Consider the possibility, though, that the flavour difference between tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes is actually a good thing. Think about what your first experience with a cigarette was like. Did you like the way that first cigarette tasted? We bet you didn’t. You enjoyed the nicotine rush, and you tolerated the taste of the smoke because you wanted to continue feeling that rush. You’ve no doubt heard many former smokers say that one of the greatest benefits of quitting is the fact that you regain your sense of taste. Well, quitting smoking also means that you’ll regain the ability to taste cigarettes as they really are. It’s not uncommon for a new vaper to have a little relapse after a few weeks of vaping and buy a pack of cigarettes. If that happens to you, we can guarantee that your first cigarette after some time off will taste every bit as vile as the first one you ever had. In that moment, you’ll realise that the difference in flavour between tobacco e-liquids and tobacco cigarettes isn’t such a bad thing after all.