We all know how vaping came to be, from the days of Aspire and their Nautilus tank, the Eleaf mods, the market share that JAC vapour commanded and all the rest of it. We still remember the brands that dominated the market when we made the switch but have you ever looked at where vaping really came from, The history of vaping? What we take for granted in vaping today started a long time ago, even before the market grew from 2014 onwards. Back then you had the birth of the Sub ohm tank, the mods that went all the way to 50w! amazing power back then. The MTL tank had been almost perfected in the Nautilus and following on from that, the likes of Smok, Uwell and Kangatech made strides and waves of their own. But I want to go before that, before vaping was popular, how did we get to this point for an ever evolving market to start from? We begin this tale way back in the 1920s believe it or not.
The very first E Cig
The name Joseph Robinson may not be one you are familiar with. Indeed there is nothing note worthy of his life that would make you know who he is, but technically Mr Robinson was the creator of the world’s first E Cigarette. Well theoretically at least, nothing ever got made but in 1927 he filed a patent for the electronic vaporiser, a device aimed at medicinal compounds. The design may not have been aimed directly at nicotine but the theory was there, using an electronic device to heat up a liquid and allow the user to inhale it without being burned.
Nothing ever came to market beyond a patent however so the patent is all we really have for this. The design is a little suspect in imagery to say the least and at the time the technology may not have been there to truly bring this idea to life. However 90 years ago, a man dreamed of creating something that we all hold in our hand today, impressive stuff indeed.
Lack of demand
The next stop on our historical tour takes us to the 1960’s and another patent, this time by a man named Herbert Gilbert. Now Mr Gilbert, besides being a teacher on a TV comedy show in the 2000s, was a inventor with an idea, again just like his counterpart Mr Robinson. The culture of the 60s had started to see concerns about smoking really starting to grow and the next 20 years after that would see smoking take a sharp nose dive in terms of health benefit ideas that were once thought to exist. Mr Gilbert filed a patent for a smokeless tobacco free product and was granted it in 1965 with prototypes developed alongside it. The problem Mr Gilbert faced was that no company wanted to develop this idea, either for the lack of interest compared to smoking or simply because the device was too out there when compared to a cigarette. Either way, sadly Herbert Gilbert couldn’t bring his idea to life fully and as a result, it took another 20 years before an electronic cigarette was revisited.
Invention of Vape
Fast forward around 15 years and we saw the very first retail release of an electronic vaping device that sadly yet again failed in becoming a hit with users. Phil Ray, a pioneer in computing worked alongside physicist Norman Jacobson to create the first vape product to reach the market. Phil was creator of the microchip and part of the Apollo program, with the idea being his brainchild. The idea behind this one was the evaporation of nicotine, in a way that was not actually electronic in the way it worked. Unlike their predecessors, they actually got this one to market being sold by major retailers and it looked like we would finally have a safer alternative to smoking. Except, there was one hitch to the plan….
It didn’t work, well it didn’t work well enough to be considered a good product. The idea was sound in theory, a device allowed you to inhale pure nicotine in a liquid form with the general mechanics following a similar suit. For example the nicotine would be absorbed by paper (wicking) and the device looked like a cigarette. You would simply inhale the pure nicotine contained inside as a means to receive the fix without burning anything. When it came to market however there was faults found within the device that created a dead end in the idea sadly, the product therefore never sold. The one silver lining is that thanks to Mr Jacobson, the term vape was included into the English language for the first time. Small steps but the bigger ones were yet to come.
The birth of a rival
Throughout the 1990s the idea of an electronic device began to pick up a lot of steam with many patents being applied for throughout the decade spilling into the next. It was the Eclipse that really stood out in this time and fore more reasons than any other. The main instigator behind the Eclipse was a certain Mr Phillip Morris, aiming to offer the first heat not burn tobacco style device, significant considering it took a further 20 years before this finally came to market with the blessing of the FDA. Many other devices were touted but nothing ever came to market, with one significant reason as to why.
The stumbling block in the 90’s at this point was not technology but the FDA, an organisation that has become synonymous with the vaping industry. Back then they didn’t regulate the tobacco industry but they did regulate the drug delivery system industry and that is where vaping, or anything smoking related fell into. This was a major stumbling block for Phillip Morris as his product was blocked due to this, plus arguably the reason why no other patents ever came to market. Ironic given that in the midst of the war on vaping in America that the FDA are firmly behind the IQOS, the heat not burn product that they opposed 20 years prior to that.
However the birth of the E Cigarette came not from America as previous thought, but out in the far east, by a pharmaceutical worker in China.
The birth of the Electronic Cigarette
Fast forward to 2003 and we finally see the release of the first commercially successful Electronic Cigarette and the source is from the most unlikeliest of places. Hon Lik may not have been a computers genius, nor a big tobacco giant, he was a simple man who had been affected by tobacco in his family. He was a smoker himself who had seen his father die from lung cancer as a result of his habit and it formed a factor in his desire to create an alternative to smoking. It was named Ruyan (like Smoke), Golden Dragon Holdings marketed the product and finally we had a product hit the market that offered smokers a chance of quitting in a safer way than ever before. We were at the birth of the market so early days but a significant event none the less.
The more surprising thing about this, not who invented it but where it was released. China is still very much a smokers country, even now products are trying to be introduced to make them switch over the vaping so for an idea to both come to life and sell? That took some real doing and we have Mr Lik to thank for vaping existing in the market today. Sadly, many counterfeit products were also created so Hon Lik never really saw the financial benefit of creating the first Ecig device, however his name will be remembered for far more than just a product. The device was like nothing we have today but the electronic delivery of nicotine was born and from then on, we have only moved onwards and upwards. Interesting point to note here also is that the first products from Ruyan used ultrasonic rather than battery powered design, something that is back in its infancy in the market today via Usonic. Combined with the heating element of the Joyetech designs, could we see the technology of 2003-7 come back in a brand new way?
Modders revolutionise the market
As vaping was still in its infancy, what was found to have happened is that the industry didn’t move on by itself, but by the people using it instead. Technology had advanced at a rapid rate since the introduction of the Ruyan so as such users started developing their own ideas and marketing them. The first real mention of this is through Umar and Tariq Sheikh, two British entrepreneurs who took the idea of the original E Cigarettes and developed them in such a big way that it can be directly linked to even pod systems of today’s market. What they came up with became known as a cartomiser, which is where you start to see the vaping industry really grow. A Cartomiser, otherwise known as a cigalike, was a device that took the heating element of the E Cigarette and placed it inside the liquid cartridge instead. Something all vaping devices have these days but back in 2008, this was a big move. It allowed a closed pod style system that closely resembles modern vaping with devices marketed to look like cigarettes, hence the name cigalike. It was this idea that was adopted by many other companies and gave a rise to the cigalike products of the early market. For years this was a staple image in the media when it came to what vaping looked like, and pushed the industry along again at a quick pace.
Following on from the Sheikh’s , more and more people experimented with vaping devices, some successfully enough to be able to make and sell their designs. The modder’s age begun as a result and different designs and styles were soon being introduced by people pushing the Ecig design as far as they could imagine. Ted and Matty Rodgers were two who accelerated the vaping industry even further and put plans in place for the big companies to finally start cementing their place. What the Rogers brothers brought out was the screwdriver design. Nothing out of the ordinary except it provided a significantly increased battery life compared to what was available. Now suddenly vapers had devices that lasted all day and before long they wanted more. The demand for replaceable parts grew, and a familiar name in the vaping industry was all too eager to oblige.
Joyetech, the first big company
If you could pick one company out of the lot who were there at the very start, Joyetech would be pretty low down on the list I would imagine. They have been a mainstay in the industry but never really excelled very much with stand out products. However with the demand for replaceable parts on their E Cigarette, Joyetech released the eGo series of vape devices and the industry was then born.
The eGo series still goes today with the same principle in design and function. An All in one kit as it is better known today, Joyetech brought a greatly improved battery life and combined it with a replaceable coil bringing vaping to a scenario which we now know today. It took all the ideas that vapers had been coming up with and manufactured it to a standard that allowed Joyetech to mass produce around the world. It gave vapers a kit that was uniform, worked brilliantly and gave them a choice in vaping for the first time. Called Clearomizers, they reformed the tank into one that you would use today. With a window showing E Liquid level, replaceable coils, with a coil inside the tank, this was the birth of modern vaping and it was no surprise that the eGo series evolved over time and remained one of the best selling products of the next 3 years at least.
Vaping had finally gone big market and evolved to a quality of product that people bought in their droves.
We end the story there but when you look back at where vaping has come from, it really does open your eyes at both motivation and desire to bring a device to market that opposed smoking. Way back in 1927 we saw the idea come to life and throughout the next 80 years we saw many others try and develop their own. The most surprising thing of all is that vapers helped shape this industry far more than any other company could after Hon Lik’s invention. If it wasn’t for vapers like you or me pushing the possibilities of what vaping could be, who knows which direction vaping would have went in. It took decades but we finally made it to a standard that vaping could be trusted and used by everyone, however we cannot forget the pioneers who kept that dream alive far longer than the market told them otherwise.