A Brief History of Vaping


How Old is Vaping?

While vaping may be considered a purley modern trend, the practice of heating a material to the point of vaporization is something that has its roots in ancient history. Dating as far back as ancient Egypt, hot stones were occasionally used to vape herbs as they brought the material to a certain heat without causing combustion. This technology would eventually evolve into the first shisha in India, which continues to be a popular method of basic vaporization to this day. Ultimately, a host of early vaporization techniques have led to modern vapes as we know them today.

Who Created the Contemporary E-Cigarette?

As we previously mentioned, the first ancient vaporizers were created and used in ancient Egypt, but the origins of the first contemporary vape can be found in 1927. Conceptualized by Joseph Robinson, the first e-cigarette was submitted for a patent on the 3rd of May, and was originally devised to hold “medicinal compounds which are electrically heated to produce vapors for inhalation.” The patent was eventually approved in 1930, but Robinson never brought the device to the market and the technology would lay dormant for decades.

Much like Robinson in 1927, another patent for a more modern vape would come from Herbert A. Gilbert in the early sixties. Like Robinson, Gilbert’s invention utilized electronic heating to produce vapor, but Gilbert included the use of a battery to power his device. 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.” Unfortunately, Gilbert’s invention never quite got off the ground and failed because it was never seen as fashionable to trendy to use.

While these early innovations introduced the modern concept of an e-cigarettes, it wasn’t until Hon Lik that the world would be introduced to how effective vaping could be. Lik, a pharmacist from the Liaoning region of China, was a lifelong smoker who would often smoke close to three packs a day. All this changed after Lik’s father passed away from lung cancer and the pharmacist was spurned to quit smoking and help others do the same. He would go on to invent an alternative to cigarettes which utilized a small lithium battery, inserted into a tube to atomise a liquid nicotine solution.

The Evolution of the E-Cigarette

While almost all modern day e-cigarettes are based off the design of Hon Lik, they continue to evolve. While the majority of vaporizers still draw power from some sort of battery, the way in which the e-liquid is contained, vaporized, and inhaled has changed throughout the history of vaping.   

At their core, all e-cigarettes and vaporizers use a heating element of sorts to turn liquid into vapor. However the heating element, or coil, has changed as trends in e-cigarettes have evolved. In the beginning most pre-built coils can in resistances above 1.0ohms. This limited the amount of vapor being produced and was not necessarily the most flavorful vape. However, soon after the popularisation of vapes, many manufacturers started looking at the sub-ohm innovations made by vape hobbyists. This eventually led to the release of pre-built sub-ohm coils. These coils have become the norm for most vapers and allow for greater cloud production and more intense flavor.

Along with the coils, the tanks used in vaping have also changed considerably to fit with the new styles of coil. The first range of offerings came in the form of cartomizers and clearomizers, both of which were fairly limited in customizability and generally offered a more restrictive inhale. However, with the advent of sub-ohm coils, the industry began to reconsider how e-liquid is held and consumed. Known as sub-ohm tanks, these modern offerings allow for greater customization, especially in regards to airflow control and carrying capacity. Both these upgrades work better with sub-ohm vaping, but allow for users to take more control of their vaping experience.

There have also been a majority of innovations in the rebuildable space, as many companies have come to acknowledge the popularization of the DIY space. These innovations have focused primarily on the build decks used in rebuildable devices and allow vapers to create a wider variety of builds to suit their needs.

Mods have also seen a great deal of innovation, with temperature control being one of the biggest additions since the designs of early e-cigarettes. Mods have also changed drastically in shape, design, and size, with many modern iterations focusing on portability over power potential.

The Future of Vaping

While vaping has progressed considerably since its first inception, the industry still manages to innovate and will likely continue to do as vaping gains in popularity. In recent years we’ve seen the release and popularization of the pod-system, which favors portability and ease of use. Pod systems have already been effective in drawing in new vapers and has challenged the notion of the traditional mod + tank systems.

Recent innovations can also be seen in e-liquids, especially in the form of nicotine being used. While most e-liquids, both past and present, utilize freebase nicotine there is a growing number of e-liquids taking advantage of salt-based nicotine. This form of nicotine dissipates into the body at a more even rate and plays a part in the rise of portable pod-based systems.

While innovations are sure to occur at any time, there are some concerns looming over the vaping industry. As vaping has gained in popularity bans and stricter regulations have also become more prevalent. Concerns over youth vaping have also become and issue and more companies are looking to address these issues. Going forward, it will be interesting to see how these issues affect the technology and change how vaping evolves.     


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