The Beginning Of Vape
The vaping process as we know it today was first invented in the 1960s and developed into a hugely successful phenomenon in the last decade. But there were vaping techniques before the invention of the modern, electronic devices and arguably vaping has been around in one form or another since ancient times.
How was modern vaping first created, how has it developed in the last sixty years and what ancient vaping techniques came before to inspire the electronic devices we know today?
Nicotine from tobacco has been around for thousands of years in South America and was made popular in Europe and the rest of the world during the 16th century.
People have tired a variety of ways to consume tobacco and other herbs over the centuries and some of these methods have involved creating vapour. Hookahs are perhaps the most obvious example but Herodotus describes an ancient Egyptian process from seven thousand years ago where herbs and oils were heated with hot stones to create vapour that was inhaled. So, the concept of vaping has been around for a very long time.
Decades Of Vaping
Modern Vaping: 1960s
Although there have been devices and techniques for centuries that could be described as ‘vaping’ the earliest device that we would recognise as an e-cigarette was created in the 1960s. Herbert A. Gilbert patented a “a smokeless non-tobacco cigarette” in 1963. The device involved “replacing burning tobacco and paper with heated, moist, flavoured air” which created flavoured steam without nicotine.
The patent was granted in 1965 and although prototypes were made, Gilbert’s invention received little attention and was never commercialized. Smoking was incredibly fashionable at the time and the idea that smoking was harmful to your health hadn’t been widely accepted yet, so Gilbert’s creation was unable to find success.
Vaping today is rapidly growing in popularity and in 2013 Gilbert said that today’s e-cigarettes follow the basic design used in his patent back in the 1960s.
Modern Vaping: 2000s
Modern vaping didn’t take off until the turn of the millennium when the modern e-cigarette was created by Hon Lik, a Chinese pharmacist. Lik quit smoking after his father, who was also a heavy smoker, died of lung cancer and he intended his e-cigarette invention as an alternative to smoking.
Lik’s original idea was to use high a high frequency, piezoelectric ultrasound-emitting element to vaporise a pressurised jot of liquid containing nicotine. But this technology was difficult to scale down into a handheld device and he got better results using resistance heating.
This resistance heating e-cigarette was patented in 2003 becoming the bases for most modern vaping technology. Lik’s invention was first sold in China in 2004 and the product quickly made its way to the US though internet sales and small marketing firms. In 2006 e-cigarettes were on sale in the US and Europe and by 2007 the company that Lik worked for registered an international patent for their device. Many US and Chinese companies began to copy the design for e-cigarettes illegally with some manufacturers later settling out of court with Lik.
When vaping products were first introduced there was a lot of scepticism about the safety of vaping. There were also a number of users who were dissatisfied with the early atomisers, finding they didn’t satisfy their cravings or produced the throat hit and feel that they wanted. Research into the effect of vaping has proven that vaping is significantly safer than smoking and many customisers developed ways to alter and improve the early designs.
British entrepreneurs Umer and Tariq Sheikh invented the cartomizer, a mechanism that integrates the heating coil into the liquid chamber in 2007. This new design was first sold in 2008 and has gone on to become the most common design used by vaping manufacturers. Over time more inventors and tinkerers added their own improvements and alterations becoming the modding community of vapers that we know today.
Ted and Matt Rogers created a modified e-cigarette in 2008 with a longer lasting battery and the popularity of modding grew as word spread online. To satisfy the demand for a more customisable vaping experience, manufacturers began to produce devices with interchangeable components that could be selected by the user.
In 2009 the clearomizer was invented, based on the design of the cartomizer first created by Umer and Tariq Sheikh. The clearomizer contained the wicking material, e-liquid tank and atomiser coil within a single clear component, allowing vapers to monitor the liquid level in the device.
Not long after the clearomizer went on sale, replaceable atomiser coils and variable voltage batteries were introduced, allowing even more freedom for customised experiences.
Modern Vaping: 2010s
Tobacco companies dismissed e-cigarettes at first, but by the 2010s they started to recognise the growing popularity of vaping and began developing their own as well as buying existing vape companies. British American Tobacco became the first tobacco company to sell e-cigarettes in the United Kingdom, launching their Vype in 2013.
In the same year, Imperial Tobacco’s Fontem Ventures acquired the intellectual property owned by Hon Lik for seventy-five million US dollars before launching Puritane in partnership with Boots United Kingdom. Other tobacco companies followed over the next decade, buying existing vape manufacturers or developing their own vaping products.
The Future Of Vaping
Vaping has developed a lot since the modern vaping device was invented less than twenty years ago. Customisation and choice has grown with a wide selection of different atomisers available whether you’re looking for something quick and simple or more complicated and involved. The number of juice varieties has grown too with hundreds of different flavours to try.
New technology is always being developed, like the Juul system that captures the feel and experience of a cigarette. As the vaping industry and modders continue to push the limits of what vaping can do, the amount of choice and quality for vapers is going to grow too.