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The history of vaping

Vaping expansion

Many people around the world now use e-cigarettes every day, but where did they come from? In this blog blu takes you through the history of vaping, from its humble beginnings right up to the present day.

Initial Ideas

In 1963, an American named Herbert A. Gilbert came up with the first complete design for an e-cigarette. The device produced steam rather than vapour and did not contain nicotine. Although the device was patented in the US and a prototype was produced, it did not receive the same amount of attention as modern e-cigarettes and was not produced on a large commercial scale. The use of the term “vaping” came to prominence in the 1970s, and has been accredited to the creators of a smokeless, non-electronic cigarette during their attempts to market the device on television.

2001 Reboot

The production and development of e-cigarettes was largely quiet in the 80s and 90s, but in 2001 a Chinese pharmacist named Hon Lik began working on the modern e-cigarette. The main difference between Hon Lik’s initial designs and the e-cigarettes we vape today is that the early-stage e-cigs were powered using ultrasonic technology rather than a battery-powered heating element. These e-cigarettes were also made from just three parts and there were no Open System e-cigarettes. During this time Hon Lik was also responsible for creating e-liquid by experimenting with various liquids that could hold nicotine and produce vapour.

In 2003 Hon Lik patented his design and it was introduced to the Chinese market in 2004. The device was initially called an “e-cigar” and it soon developed a loyal following in China. Other versions of Hon Lik’s design were also developed and sold over the internet to the US by small companies.

Read more: Hon Lik: The Man Who Invented Vaping

Expansion and Innovation

Word of the e-cigarette’s success began spreading to Europe and the US, and e-cigarettes were being sold in both regions by the end of 2007. Early adopters of the technology began innovating and the cartomiser was invented by brothers Umer and Tariq Sheikh. Unlike previous designs, the cartomiser featured a heating coil contained within the liquid store. It could be filled with e-liquid manually rather than needing to be replaced with a new cartridge.

This invention allowed for further development of Open System e-cigarettes, and in turn led to the development of the clearomiser in 2009. The clearomiser was very well received as it let vapers to monitor to amount of e-liquid in their device. Although originally a disposable component of the overall device, clearomisers were soon re-developed so that could be used more than once.

E-cigarettes were seen by many as a passing trend when they first burst onto the scene, but they continued to grow in popularity and in 2009 blu was founded in Charlotte, North Carolina.

E-Cigarette Regulation

By 2010 there was an increasing amount of legislation in place affecting where e-cigarettes could be used and sold. Some countries such as Australia initially banned e-cigarettes completely and many other countries began introducing laws to protect consumers from ill-made products. By 2015 roughly two-thirds of large countries had introduced some form of legislation relating to e-cigarettes.

The EU Tobacco Products Directive went into action during the first half of 2016. These laws put restrictions on the amount of nicotine permitted in e-liquid and cartridges could no longer hold more than 10ml of e-liquid. To this day the UK has no official legislation regarding where e-cigarettes can and cannot be used; however many organisations have their own regulations in place.

Current and Future State of E-Cigarettes

E-cigarettes continue to grow in popularity, and by 2014 the number of people who had tried e-cigs in the UK alone had risen from 8.9% to 15.5% and over 10 million vapers in the EU. The industry itself is also continuing to grow with some analysts predicting that it will be worth over $50 billion by the year 2025.

The journey of e-cigarettes is far from over, and it is clear that they have come a long way in just over a decade since they were first developed on a commercial scale. Before the turn of the century we could have hardly imagined where e-cigarettes would be now, and this will make it fascinating to see what the latest inventions and innovations are in the years to come.


Read more:
History of vaping