The initial concept of vaping first came about close to 100 years ago in the USA. Whether you’re wondering when the e-cigarette was invented or when vaping first became popular, this timeline covers it all. So, let’s take a look at the history of vaping, how it came to be, and what the future of vaping might look like.
Vaping in ancient times
17th Century | Water-pipes
According to the British Museum, the technology to smoke with vapour has been around for centuries. The first water pipes created originated from either Iran or India. They’re known in Persian as qalyun or qalyan, in India as huqqa or hookah and in Arabic as narghileh or shisha; they’re also popularly known as a hubble-bubble pipe.
Who invented vaping?
Many people claim to have ‘invented vaping’, but there is documented proof that these men did.
In 1963, Herbert A Gilbert filed a patent for a “smokeless non-tobacco cigarette”, but it didn’t go anywhere and was never commercialised. Fast-forward to 2003, when Hon Lik , a pharmacist and inventor, registered a patent for the first modern e-cigarette.
Left image: Patent for Smokeless Non-Tobacco Cigarettes by Herbert A Gilbert
Right image: Patent for Electronic Atomization Cigarette by Hon Lik
Vaping in the 1900s
It was Joseph Robinson who had the first patent granted for his electrical vaporizer. Robinson filed for a patent in 1927, stating that his invention was “A vaporizer for generating vapors for inhalation”. He named his product ‘Mechanical Butane Ignition Vaporizer’. His patent was granted in 1930. However, it and his subsequent patents were never commercialised and it’s not entirely clear whether or not any prototype was created.
Patent for Electronic Vaporiser by Joseph Robinson
Herbert A. Gilbert is usually credited as the inventor of the first device that loosely resembles a modern-day e-cigarette. Gilbert called the device “Smokeless”. The battery-driven device warmed up liquid, creating an inhalable vapour. Unable to secure a company willing to mass-produce and sell his product, Herbert A Gilbert’s device never went to market.
1979 | Phil Ray & Dr Norman Jacobson
In 1979, Phil Ray and his physician Norman Jacobson commercialised a variation of the e-cigarette, which wasn’t electronic. The initial design used paper, which absorbed liquid nicotine that was then inhaled. They called it a “smoke free cigarette”. With no combustion involved, the plastic device looked like a cigarette and contained a piece of paper that was soaked in nicotine.
You simply inhaled the nicotine - no combustion, no smoke was involved. The problem with the initial design was that it had a very short shelf life and ended up bitter tasting if it went past its expiry date. The product called “Favor” reached major retailers but was deemed to be defective and was removed from shelves shortly after its launch.
Birth of the modern-day e-cigarette
2003 | Hon Lik
Pharmacist and inventor, Hon Lik, was the first to register a patent for the modern e-cigarette device. Lik cited the death of his father, who was a heavy smoker, as the main motivation for him to find an alternative to smoking cigarettes . As a pharmacist, Lik had access to a laboratory that had an abundant supply of nicotine. In 2001, after a lot of trial and error, Lik created his prototype but the model was quite large and cumbersome.
By 2003, Hon Lik filed a patent for a smaller, more practical model for an electronic vaporiser, called the Ruyan. As time went on Lik worked on making the device smaller and more user-friendly, refining the mechanism for vaporising nicotine in response to a puff. After eight months of testing, the product went to market. Initially, there wasn’t a whole lot of interest in the initial launch market, China. But once the device started selling in Europe and North America, the act of vaping started to grow in popularity.
2004 | The vaping revolution
Since Hon Lik’s first device, the world of vaping has evolved and transformed, with other manufacturers creating their own devices and designs.
2007 | Tariq and Umer Sheikh
In 2007, British entrepreneurs Tariq and Umer Sheikh invented the Carboniser, which soon became a common component in many e-cigarette devices. The carboniser allowed for the first vape mods to be developed. By 2008, mods and pod-mods were starting to appear on the market.
2023 | Vaping today
Many people around the world are choosing to make the switch from smoking cigarettes to vaping.
Vaping in New Zealand today
In New Zealand, vaping products are regulated through the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Act 1990. The Act ensures that vaping products are available to those who are looking to make the switch from smoking to vaping, but also prohibits those under the age of 18 from buying vaping products.
At Vuse, it is our mission to provide Kiwi adults who smoke or are existing vape users, with high-quality and great-tasting vaping e Liquid and e-cigarette products. Our e Liquids come in over 20 different flavour options with nic salt and freebase nicotine formulations available. If you’re thinking about making the switch from smoking to vaping, we have a range of vape devices and e Liquids pods, plus lots of useful articles to help get you on the right track.
If you’re worried about the effects of smoking on your health, the best option is to quit smoking altogether. If you don’t smoke, don’t start smoking. For those adult tobacco consumers, switching to vaping products is a potentially reduced risk alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes.