History of Electronic Cigarettes

History of electronic cigarettes at QuitDay.orgIn 2014, the word “vape” made it into the Oxford Dictionary and was named the word of the year. If anything, that proves that vaping is now a worldwide phenomenon and people from all over are finally accepting e-cigarettes as an alternative means to smoking.

E-cigarettes have exploded in popularity since they burst onto the scene back in 2003. At first, they were met with trepidation by the smoking masses. However, slowly but surely, they have gained traction to see their popularity peak in 2014.

But were e-cigarettes just a recent invention? Surprisingly, the answer is no. Believe it or not, e-cigarettes have been in existence since the early 1960s. Below is a historical timeline of e-cigarettes, from their inception to where they are today.

The Early Years

First patented by a gentleman named Herbert A. Gilbert in 1963, the first e-cigarette was described as a non-tobacco cigarette wherein a nicotine solution was heated up to produce steam. This was the first recorded instance of the idea of e-cigarettes; however, the product was never manufactured.

Fast-forward to 1979, when Dr. Norman Jacobson invented an early form of the e-cigarette. Called the Favor cigarette, it was a device that gave users a way to inhale nicotine without the smoke. Incidentally, Dr. Jacobson was also one of the pioneers of the word “vaping.”

The decades that followed showed no improvements in e-cig technology, and Dr. Jacobson’s invention was virtually ignored. This was because during that era, from the 1960s to 1990s, cigarettes were the norm. Cigarette smoking was allowed everywhere, and no one really complained. Even the harmful side effects were pushed aside and not given much attention.

Cigarette companies had succeeded in marketing smoking as “cool.”

The Modern Era

Hon Lik — Chinese pharmacist who invented the modern electronic cigarette.

Hon Lik — Chinese pharmacist who invented the modern electronic cigarette.

When the 2000s came, alternative healthy lifestyles began permeating the collective consciousness of the masses. While previously, people were either vegetarians or meat-eaters, this era saw the rise of vegans, ovo-lacto vegetarians, fruitarians, and other eating lifestyles.

Because of this paradigm shift in lifestyle habits, it was only natural that smokers found their own healthier alternative.

In 2003, a Chinese pharmacist named Hon Lik reinvented the e-cigarette to its modern form. The following year, the Ruyan (which means “like smoke”) company — where Hon Lik was employed — invested in the idea and capitalized on the alternative lifestyle trend, manufacturing the very first modern e-cigarettes.

The cig-a-like vape pens from Ruyan were an instant hit in the Chinese market and quickly spread to neighboring countries.

In 2006, this new trend reached the shores of Europe, and it hit American shores in 2007.

Bad Press

As e-cigarettes became more popular, government health agencies began to take notice. From 2012 to 2013, intensive research on the effects of e-cigarettes took place. While many research organizations started to discredit the benefit of e-cigs, experts at the World Health Organization, or WHO, argued that many of the results of those studies (including WHO-commissioned ones) were rife with errors, misinterpretations and misrepresentations.

Through it all, despite the negative press, e-cigs’ popularity never waned. In fact, especially after WHO admitted its mistakes, their popularity rose even further.

As e-cigs rose to unprecedented heights of fame, many small Chinese companies took advantage by manufacturing cheap knockoffs with poor quality control. This led to reports of batteries exploding in the faces of users, news of which circulated social media and the Internet. Anti-vaping groups used these reports to push for the banning of all e-cigs, with many government agencies heeding the call.

In January 2014, the UK banned e-cigarettes for minors, while in Chicago, the City Council voted on a bill to regulate their use, prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes in public places, requiring stores selling them to keep them behind the counter, and prohibiting their sale to minors.

In February 2014, the European Parliament banned the advertising of e-cigarettes, and 28 nations of the European Union banned their use altogether, as they already had with all tobacco products. Packages for e-cigarettes were required to carry graphic health warnings and be childproof. The amount of nicotine in e-cigarettes was limited to 20 milligrams per milliliter, similar to ordinary cigarettes.

In September 2014, a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine stated that, “like conventional cigarettes, electronic cigarettes may function as a ‘gateway drug’ that can prime the brain to be more receptive to harder drugs.”

However, legitimate e-cigarette companies pushed on, educating the public about how cheap knockoffs are dangerous, and advising as to general e-cig safety and use. This led to rapid technological advancements in the vaping industry, with e-cig models now sporting thermal protection, reverse battery protection, short circuit protection, and various other safety features to prevent future mishaps.

The Resurgence

 As new e-cig models with advanced safety features started hitting the market, e-cigarettes began gaining the trust of many smokers looking for an alternative means to quit. Although a number of U.S. states still have bans implemented on the sale and use of e-cigs, many are sold across the country and world. This demonstrates that smokers, regardless of what the government says, are actively seeking out ways to quit smoking.

E-cigarettes clearly work as an effective smoking cessation tool. While long-term effects of their use are yet to be discovered, the fact remains that e-cigarettes are a healthier alternative to smoking. Numbers don’t lie, as the millions of ex-smokers who’ve quit with the help of e-cigarettes would attest.

To learn more about electronic cigarettes visit Electronic Cigarettes Guide.

For more motivation to quit smoking once and for all, visit The Real Cost of Smoking.

Read more about the effects cigarette smoke has on the human body at The Effects of Smoking.

Check out more of our great articles:

Nicotine Dependence and Freedom

• How to Inspire a Smoker to Quit

• Secondhand Smoke: Think Twice

  • Anna

    When reading this, the first sentence is already incorrect. The electronic cigarette was actually invented by Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik, who patented the device in 2003 and introduced it to the Chinese market the following year. Other than this, the article is great!

    • Aaron Beckwith

      Maybe you should actually try reading this. He didn’t invent the electronic cigarette he invented the “MODERN” e-cig. So try reading the entire article instead of reading the first line and then commenting

    • Aaron Beckwith

      Also he was not the first to patent the first e-cig either. The first e-cig patented ever was in the 1960’s. This article is every bit of 100% correct and accurate.