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The History of Vaping: From 1963 to the Present

A few years ago, the first generation of e-cigarettes arrived in stores all over the world. It's impossible not to be impressed by the pace at which the vaping industry is evolving. In 10 years, the vaping industry has changed so drastically that most vapers would not recognize an e-cigarette from 10 years ago as a vaping device. That's how significant the changes have been.

There is a good chance that you already have a pretty high level of appreciation for the device you are holding in your hand if you are new to the vaping community and used e-cigarettes to quit smoking. If you were to learn about all of the technological milestones the vaping industry has had to reach to get you that device, you might appreciate it even more. That’s the focus of this article. Our discussion will cover the history of vaping from its beginnings and highlight some of the most important vaping technologies.

Our history of vaping begins with the discovery that the idea of vaping is actually quite old.

Gilbert A. Gilbert Created the Original “Smokeless Cigarette” in 1963

Gilbert A. Gilbert in an image with a diagram of the first ever smokeless cigarette

Herbert A. Gilbert – a scrap metal business owner - created the first e-cigarette in his Pennsylvania workshop in 1963. He received a patent for his invention in 1965. Gilbert called his invention the Smokeless Non-Tobacco Cigarette, and he invented it for exactly the same reason that the modern e-cigarette exists today: to help people quit smoking.

It worked much like today's e-cigarettes, since Gilbert's smokeless cigarette contained no nicotine. A battery was used to heat flavoured water, which was then inhaled and exhaled like smoke. Gilbert created several flavours for his device, including cinnamon, rum and mint. In addition to helping smokers quit, he hoped that his invention would appeal to dieters who might like to inhale sweet flavours rather than eating them.

A tobacco company was not interested in producing a product that could help people quit smoking, so Gilbert was unable to find a company willing to produce his product. A safer product would be an admission that cigarettes were unsafe, something tobacco companies did not want to admit in the 1960s. Pharmacies did not care either. There is also a question of whether the battery technology available at the time would have powered Gilbert's device. Ultimately, the Smokeless Cigarette was a great idea that appeared just a bit too soon.

The Flavour Cigarette Sparked the Creation of "Vaping"

The Favour cigarette was developed by J. Phillip Ray and Dr. Norman L. Jacobson in the late 1970s. It was not an electronic device. It was a plastic tube shaped like a cigarette that contained a tissue paper filter impregnated with liquid nicotine. Upon puffing, the nicotine is released into the airstream, which is then absorbed by the lungs. A single Favour cigarette would last about a day for an average smoker.

In today's article, Dr. Jacobson discusses the issues the company encountered when it came to storing the product; if it wasn't refrigerated, the nicotine would turn bitter. Nevertheless, the Favour cigarette has an important place in history because its creators invented the terms “vaping” and “vaper.” Those terms are found in the original studies the creators of Favour conducted to prove that users of the cigarette actually absorbed nicotine in vapour form.
Despite being mass produced, favour cigarettes were withdrawn from the market by the FDA, deeming them illegal drugs.

In the late 2000s, when Chinese-made e-cigarettes started arriving on U.S. shores, the vaping industry faced the same problem. A lawsuit filed by NJOY against the FDA in 2010 led to vaping products being sold in the United States as tobacco products after the FDA confiscated shipments of e-cigarettes, claiming they were drug delivery devices.

Image of 1970s group logos for favor smokeless cigarettes

 Hon Lik Started the Modern Vaping Revolution

Even though it's fun to study the early attempts at invention, the first modern e-cigarette was created in 2003, which is when vaping became known as it is today. A Chinese pharmacist, Hon Lik, invented it after losing his father to lung cancer as a heavy smoker. He knew that unless he found a better way to quit smoking, he would suffer the same fate. The nicotine patches he had used in the past had been so unsatisfactory that he sometimes forgot he was wearing them.

We use heating elements in e-cigarettes now, unlike Lik's original design, which used piezoelectric vibrations to vaporise e-liquid. Lik's original design used piezoelectric vibrations to vaporise e-liquid.

Although China has a large population of smokers, vaping has never been particularly popular there despite Hon Lik's e-cigarette being called "Ruyan," which means "like smoking" in Chinese. One advantage Lik had over the previous would-be inventors of vaping was that he had access to China's massive network of factories, allowing him to quickly and cheaply turn his idea into reality.

Despite its limited success in China, the Ruyan e-cigarette was incredibly popular in other parts of the world, most notably in the US and UK.

A Chinese pharmacist, Hon Lik, inventor of ecigarette image sitting in chair with pipe in mouth

Even though it's fun to study the early attempts at invention, the first modern e-cigarette was created in 2003, which is when vaping became known as it is today. A Chinese pharmacist, Hon Lik, invented it after losing his father to lung cancer as a heavy smoker. He knew that unless he found a better way to quit smoking, he would suffer the same fate. The nicotine patches he had used in the past had been so unsatisfactory that he sometimes forgot he was wearing them.

We use heating elements in e-cigarettes now, unlike Lik's original design, which used piezoelectric vibrations to vaporise e-liquid. Lik's original design used piezoelectric vibrations to vaporise e-liquid.

Although China has a large population of smokers, vaping has never been particularly popular there despite Hon Lik's e-cigarette being called "Ruyan," which means "like smoking" in Chinese. One advantage Lik had over the previous would-be inventors of vaping was that he had access to China's massive network of factories, allowing him to quickly and cheaply turn his idea into reality.

Despite its limited success in China, the Ruyan e-cigarette was incredibly popular in other parts of the world, most notably in the US and UK.

E-cigarettes with two-parts and cartomizers changed the face of vaping

EasyPuff Electronic cigarette starter kit 2 peice system set with white back ground

The eGo E-Cigarette Became the Vaping Industry’s Next Signature Product

In the early 2010s, the vaping industry celebrated the launch of what would become its second signature product after the cigalike. The eGo vape pen may not have looked much on the surface. After all, it was just a tube with a fire button. However, that humble tube had two important features. Due to its threaded top, the battery can be used with atomizers and tanks of many different types - including prefilled cartomizers from existing e-cigarette brands.

Another feature of the eGo e-cigarette was its battery. Unlike first-generation e-cigarettes, which typically had a battery capacity of around 100 mAh, the eGo e-cigarettes had a battery capacity that could reach 1,000 mAh or more. With a larger battery capacity, the eGo e-cigarette produced larger and more satisfying clouds than any other mass-produced vaping product.

EGo e-cigarettes were developed as the tastes of the community changed due to their 510 threading, which became the industry standard. Whether people preferred cartomizers, tanks or dripping atomizers, the eGo e-cigarette was the ideal platform. There are still variations of the eGo e-cigarette available.

EasyPuff Ego-T electronic cigarette starter kit set on white back ground with charger below

Sub-Ohm Vaping Began With Box Mods

Even though the eGo e-cigarette was great for new vapers, more experienced vapers eventually felt constrained by the platform due to its very limited wattage. Those with more experience wanted to increase vapour production even further by using atomizer coils with low resistance, which could operate at higher wattages. To do that, they needed vaping devices with stronger batteries.

Originally, box mods were simple mechanical devices designed by vapers. They used batteries such as the popular 18650 cell, which is commonly used in flashlights and electric vehicles. A few factories in China, however, picked up on the trend and began manufacturing box mods with full power control. In addition to variable wattage, those devices included built-in safety features such as automatic monitoring for short circuits and overheating.

Despite their prevalence in the vaping industry today, box mods are unlikely to disappear anytime soon.

E-kiss electronic ciagrette kit by easypuff made in 2016 image set on white back ground

Pod Systems and Nicotine Salt Made Switching to Vaping Easier Than Ever

The first nicotine salt e-liquids and pod-based vaping systems were released in 2015, beginning the next great era of vaping. The invention of nicotine salt e-liquid was a revolutionary development because it was milder on the throat than the earliest e-liquids, thus enabling the creation of higher-nicotine e-liquids that didn't irritate the throat.

Vaping devices could finally deliver the same amount of nicotine per puff as cigarettes thanks to nicotine salt e-liquid. In order to successfully switch to vaping, smokers had to adjust to lower blood nicotine levels - or use more powerful vaping devices. With nicotine salt e-liquids, new vapers could use the smallest vaping devices and still be completely satisfied.

Pod-based vaping devices proved to be ideal companions for nicotine salt e-liquid. People loved the fact that pod-based devices looked distinct from tobacco cigarettes, and they were also extremely easy to use – you just put in a pod and vape. It is no secret that pod systems continue to be a top vaping device until the next big revolution comes along and changes the vaping history yet again.

 

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