The Evolution Of Vaping

The evolution of vaping:

Have you ever wondered who invented the electronic cigarette or when people started vaping? Technology has come a long way since the first e cigarette. When it comes to vaping, today you can have a pocket size portable vaporizer with custom heat settings, fancy flavored vape juices and any nicotine strength. Wow, that’s all pretty amazing! This is the story of the beginning of the vaporizer.

The earliest e-cigarette tracks back to an American man, far ahead of his time, Herbert A. Gilbert. In 1963 Gilbert patented "a smokeless non-tobacco cigarette." At the time Smoking was still fashionable an no one gave much attention to his “smokeless cigarette” invention. In his patent, Gilbert described how his device worked, by "replacing burning tobacco and paper with heated, moist, flavored air." Gilbert's device involved no nicotine, but instead produced a flavoured steam. Gilbert’s design relied on battery power, but battery technology in the early 1960s was a long way behind where it is now. Rechargeable batteries were expensive and usually heavy; conventional batteries weren’t cheap either and had limited energy storage. The first electronic cigarette was ahead of its time both socially and technologically, and attempts to commercialize Gilbert’s invention failed and his product sank into obscurity for almost 40 years. In 2013, Gilbert stated that the e-cigarettes used today are almost identical to the basic design set forth in his original patent.

In 2001 a new electronic cigarette was being created by Hon Lik, a chinese pharmacist, and agricultural researcher in China. After losing his father to lung cancer, Hon, a heavy smoker himself, decided it was time to quit the habit. Like many people, Hon tried nicotine patches and found that they didn’t work very well. Luckily for Hon he had the skills and resources to try something else. By 2003 Hon Lik patented the first nicotine based electronic cigarette and by 2004 was the first person to manufacture and sell such a product, first in the Chinese market and then internationally.

While experimenting with vaporizing liquids, Hon found propylene glycol, a common food additive, could replicate the feeling of inhaling tobacco smoke. Propylene glycol proved to be non-toxic, creates a satisfying vapor, and makes a good solvent for nicotine and natural flavorings. Still to this day propylene glycol is one of the main ingredients along with vegetable glycerine in eLiquids.

During Hons experimentation phase he was using a large vaporizing system built on a console. The next step in the journey was creating a vaporizer device that people could conveniently use. Hon had an advantage that Herbert A Gilbert did not have in 1963. He had access to affordable high-capacity batteries. Hon was able to take modern lithium batteries that can store enough energy to power an electronic cigarette for hours at a time. These are the same kind of batteries used in phones, laptops and various electronics.

Hon’s first design was patented in 2003; it consisted of an ultrasonic emitter, a jet of pressurized liquid that would turn to fine droplets of mist through very high frequency vibrations. In 2004 the Hon released the first commercial cigarette. However, it didn't use the ultrasound system, but instead used a heated coil, similar to Gilbert’s original design. All subsequent vapes have used this system, which can heat the oil properly and produce more vapor. 

Today a lot of other inventors have modified and designed vaporizers to be more efficient, compact and have adjustable heat settings. For example two British vapers, Umer and Tariq Sheikh, improved the basic three-piece design by combining the cartridge and atomizer into a cartomizer. Two other Brits, Matt and Ted Rogers, developed the first “mod”. Since then dozens of improvements have been tried out, many of them by hobbyists, and some have become mainstream. The two inventors who developed the concept and turned it into a real product gave us a great foundation to build on, and did it without any help from major cigarette industries. Today both Hon Lik and Herbert A. Gilbert are looked to as the grandfathers of the vaporizer and have paved the way for a less harmful alternative for smoking. Today more than 10% of adults in the USA vape, and vaping is believed to be helpful to those adults trying to quit smoking cigarettes. It would only be appropriate to acknowledge both Hon Lik and Herbert A. Gilbert for the basic design of the modern vape device.