How long has vaping been around?
While the modern concept of vaping has only existed for the past decade, the vaporization of substances goes back for millennia as both a spiritual and recreational practice. While the true date of the practice beginning is unknown, we do know that the ancient Egyptians would occasionally use hot stones to vaporize certain herbs. This process differed vastly from simply burning them, as the hot stones brought the natural oils of the herbs to a point of vaporization without causing combustion.
This ancient method of vaporization would eventually evolve into the hookah, which was developed in what is now modern-day India. Much like the Egyptian method of vaporization, the hookah uses hot coals to heat a specific material, which is then fed down into a water chamber and into the mouth of a user through a tube. While a hookah may not be considered vaping in the modern sense, the operation of the device is quite similar to vaping and as such should be categorized as an early precursor to the modern vaporizer.
Ultimately, these two methods of early vaporization would lead to the development of modern vapes as we know them today.
When was the first contemporary e-cigarette created?
To answer simply, the first modern e-cigarette appeared in the 2000s, however, there were several patents and designs that predated this version by decades. Starting first in 1927, this early concept of the e-cigarette was created by Joseph Robinson. While Robinson never brought the device to market, a patent was approved in 1930 and its function is quite reminiscent of modern e-cigarettes. Robinson originally conceived of the device as a medicinal instrument in which medical compounds could be held, heated, vaporized, and inhaled by the user.
Unfortunately, Robinson’s design would lay dormant for decades, until Herbert A. Gilbert submitted his own patent for an e-cigarette in the 1960s. Like Robinson’s early design, Gilbert’s utilized an electronic heating element, however, Gilbert included the use of a battery in his final design. According to Gilbert, “I concluded that a battery powered heat source would do the job, and the first electric cigarette was born. I did build prototypes and tried using various flavors of water as steam… and it worked.” While Gilbert did manage to produce prototypes and some commercial offerings of his device, it ultimately failed because the device was never seen as fashionable in the contemporary market.
Following Gilbert’s attempt, Phil Ray and Normal Jacobson would continue to work on commercializing the idea of the e-cigarette in the 80s. Their efforts would eventually be stymied when the FDA made it illegal for tobacco companies to introduce e-cigarettes to the market.
In Europe however, vaping was gaining steam and in the 90s Bill “Eagle” Amato invented the first cannabis vaporizer. This early design by Amato would later be referenced by the wildly successful Volcano desktop vaporizer in the 2000s.
The first modern e-cigarette
While all of these early inventions were innovative in some sort of way, almost all of them failed to make it to market and ultimately made no direct impact on the world. It wasn’t until a Chinese pharmacist took it upon himself to show the potential vaping could have and inadvertently launch an entire industry based around a single invention.
Developed and created by Hon Lik, the idea for the e-cigarette came when Lik lost his father to lung cancer. Lik, who was a lifelong smoker himself, began devising a way to consume nicotine without also inhaling the plethora of chemicals that come along with burning tobacco. His final design would consist of a small lithium battery, inserted into a tube to atomize a liquid nicotine solution. While this may seem rudimentary, compared to present day vapes, the core technology from Lik’s design would serve as the base in which all e-cigarettes were developed off of.
In 2006 Lik’s employer, Ruyan Group, now Dragonite International, helped him introduce the first e-cigarettes to Europe. This initial expansion in Europe helped the company gauge the interest of the device outside of China and allowed them to continue to make improvements in a short amount of time. After a successful launch, the first e-cigs were introduced into the US in 2007 and have only continued to gain popularity among ex-smokers and those looking to drop the habit.
It should also be noted that two brothers from the UK, Umer and Tariq Sheikh, were the first to invent the cartomizer. The cartomizer made e-cigarettes incredibly user-friendly and played a big role in the popularization of e-cigarettes in the consumer market.
The evolution of the e-cigarette
As with any technological innovation, later versions of Hon Lik’s design evolved greatly to accommodate the various needs and wants of consumers. While all modern vaporizers still draw power from a lithium battery, the tanks and coils they power have changed drastically beyond the designs of the past.
While early e-cigarettes were dependent on extremely limited tanks and coils, with almost all having a resistance above 1.0ohms, modern offerings are almost always sub-ohm allowing for better flavour and vapour production. Brands like SMOK, UWELL, and Sigelei have pioneered these advancements and have allowed vapers to experience cloud chasing without having knowledge of rebuilding.
Speaking of rebuilding, this DIY style of vaping came directly from enthusiasts looking to further customize their vaping experience. Companies began to take notice of these DIY builds and they quickly developed products that better fit these vaper’s needs.
The devices vapers use to power their coils have also developed at an incredible rate and have grown to focus on power, customizability, and portability. Out of all these innovations, temperature control is perhaps the biggest and most impactful to hit the vaping market. This feature of modern vaporizers gives vapers increased control over their vaping experience by giving them the ability to control the heat of their vapour, as well as the amount and flavour produced.
The future of vaping
Vaping has progressed considerably since the first e-cigarette was introduced to the market and the industry shows no signs of slowing down. At the time of writing this, the latest innovation among e-cigarettes has to be the rise of the pod system. This style of vape favours portability, efficiency, and ease-of-use over obscene power and cloud chasing potential. The rise of the pod system is particularly good for new vapers, as it provides an affordable and fuss-free device that simply works and functions exactly as intended.
Recent innovations have also hit the e-liquid market, namely the popularization of nic salt e-liquids. While most e-liquids still utilize freebase nicotine, there is a growing contingency of companies that are producing all or most of their e-liquids with salt-based nicotine. This form of nicotine dissipates into the body at a more even rate and has played a big part in the rise of pod systems as they can accommodate the higher nicotine strengths nic salt e-liquids are often produced at.