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ECigarettes to vapes: A technology timeline

vape pen
Image: Unsplash

Every since the commercialization of eCigarettes, the popularity of these innovative alternatives to traditional cigarettes has grown considerably. From the days of small devices that mimicked the traditional look, to today’s huge variety of machines and vape juice, it’s clear that the industry has undergone quite a bit of development over the years – but when did it all start? That’s what we’re exploring, below.

1963 – 1965: The first recording of an e-cigarette like those we know today was an invention crafted by a man named Herbert A. Gilbert. In 1963, he filed to patent a non-tobacco cigarette that wouldn’t form smoke and was inspired by the nebulizers of the time. His patent was accepted for a battery-powered electronic cigarette that would release a ‘vapour’ or nicotine and “flavored air” but despite being crafted, it was never actually put out commercially.

1979: A man by the name of Dr. Normal Jacobson went on to develop this idea further with the creation of the ‘Flavor Cigarette’. This was essentially a plastic tube filled with a nicotine solution as a way for smokers to gain the nicotine they craved without the harmful substances associated with combustion.

2003: Not much happened after the introduction of the Flavor Cigarette, apart from perhaps the creation of a smaller, portable lithium battery which would soon become the power source for electronic cigarettes. In 2003, however, a Chinese man by the name of Hon Lik went on to design another device not too dissimilar to Gilbert’s.

This electronic cigarette, however, did produce smoke-like vapor and rather a lot of it. He was a pharmacist and an inventor at the time, and the company he worked for even went to change from Golden Dragon Holdings to Ruyan (‘like smoke’.) Marketing started pretty quickly after that, and soon they were considering an international expansion.

2007: America finally get their hands on e-cigarettes and companies like Ruyan begin to grace the market with more and more electronic cigarettes.

2008: As with most international markets, the launch in America led to a spread of e-cigarettes across the globe, with New Zealand and Germany picking up the sale in 2008, though only in Germany after protests spread across the country after raids on stores selling what was classed as a ‘drug’ at the time. However, some countries actually banned these devices from the offset, including Panama, Australia, and Holland. In the same year.

2010: A ‘Vapefest’ was held in Richmond, which ultimately led to the expansion of the ‘make your own’ side of the market for vaping. Most e-cigarettes were considered insufficient, and often broke or were classed as disposable and so this community began to develop their own e-cigarettes and would sell and trade them at this festival.

This year also saw the first celebrity – Katherine Heigl – use of e-cigarettes, on TV no less, and a federal judge even declared e-cigarette importation legal despite the FDA attempting to block it.

2013: This was the year that Big Tobacco finally decided to get involved with the e-cigarette industry and buy up a huge chunk of the industry despite having been offered the same back when Gilbert first invented the device.

2014: The term ‘vape’ is officially a word in the Oxford English Dictionary! E-cigs have come on leaps and bounds since the taps of plastic tubing, with box mods and flavored liquids becoming a standard part of the vaping process.

Chris has been blogging since the early days of the internet. He primarily focuses on topics related to tech, business, marketing, and pretty much anything else that revolves around tech. When he's not writing, you can find him noodling around on a guitar or cooking up a mean storm for friends and family.

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