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From Clay Pipes To Vaping: The Long History Of Inhaling

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The inhalation of nicotine dates back an awfully long time. If you want to go right back, probably a full five millennia – yes, that’s right; it probably started 5,000 years ago. But how did we go from the ancient rural communities of South America, where it was a key ingredient of spiritual rituals, right up to the hyper-advanced vaping of the 21st Century? Well, it’s a long road, so let’s take a look back along it – a nicotine-strewn memory lane, if you will…

Tobacco pipes

In the beginning, the word was ‘pipe’ – and, in terms of tobacco inhalation, so it remained for many a century. For, yes, when tobacco was first introduced to Europe in 1560 – indeed, by Spanish explorer Hernández de Boncalo – it was undoubtedly consumed via pipes. Which soon gave rise to a craze, then a fashion and then a widespread, mainstream, globe-trotting wave of inhalation by the middle of the next century. Apparently, though, long before this, pipe-smoking took place via bowls that were carved by hand from stone before being polished and engraved with elaborate patterns. This was eventually replaced by clay pipes, which European explorers like Boncalo and England’s Sir Walter Raleigh observed Native Americans using (then tried out for themselves), before popularising their use in ‘Old Europe’.

Indeed, owing to their easy and cheap production, clay pipes remained en vogue until the 18th Century, when the more durable and less fragile meerschaum, a fine-grained type of stone, was briefly adopted. Like the stone pipes of the ‘New World’, many extant meerschaum pipes feature extravagantly carved designs; they often feature bowls in the shape of a head, for example. After this, the resilient and heat-resident wood that’s briar caught on as a pipe material of choice and, along with plastics of different kinds, remains the go-to material for pipes today.

Cigars and cigarettes

There was always a problem with pipe-smoking, though; the process was fiddly and jeopardised whenever you dropped the pipe, potentially breaking it. The answer was to roll cured tobacco into a cylindrical wrapper, then light one end and simply pop the other in your mouth. Effectively then, the cigar was born; evolving into what we’d actually recognise as a cigar thanks to the use of high-quality leaf as a wrapper. The trouble with cigars, though, was always that, because each one had to be made individually and, well, quickly burnt up into nothing, they were expensive. Which is obviously still true today. As time went on, the idea behind the cigar was downsized into the cigarette, which eventually in the 1880s enjoyed mass-production in factories across the United States. And within just half a century, the number of European and American adults smoking cigarettes ballooned from 1 percent in 1900 to 50 percent five decades later.

Vaping emerges

However, the rise and rise of tobacco came to a stuttering and, yes, coughing and spluttering halt in the second half of the 20th Century when it slowly became unavoidable public knowledge that all the hazardous chemicals contained in its tar was so harmful to the body that it could cause issues like heart disease and cancer – and so kill smokers. Bad news. And yet, the addictive quality of nicotine ensured that a proportion of them simply kept on puffing… that is until just inside the 21st Century, Hon Lok, a Chinese pharmacist, tried to create a device that would deliver the necessary hit of nicotine, but without the toxic chemicals of tobacco. Lo and behold, yes; the e-cigarette and, with it, vaping were born.

The e-cig has now been around for a decade-and-a-half and things have heated up in more ways than one – the technology behind the humble e-cig’s been through three generations in that time and the thing’s appearance has changed dramatically with it (for instance, check out the fantastic designs offered by Smok Vape!). Meanwhile, integration of circuitry, temperature control, preservation of batteries and overall performance have all improved too.

So much so, of course, that vaping businesses – like our own – dedicated to vending e-cigs, fluids and everything else that comes with them have popped up and are doing very well, thank you very much. But then, it’s hardly surprising – after all, the latest research suggests that vaping’s 95 percent less harmful to the body than smoking tobacco via cigarettes. Vaping’s here to stay as an inhalation solution, for sure!


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Warning: Electronic Cigarettes products contain nicotine, a poisonous and addictive substance. Products and accessories are only intended for committed smokers of legal smoking age and not by non-smokers, children, women who are pregnant or may become pregnant or any person with an elevated risk of. If you experience any side effects or possible side effects, stop using the product immediately and consult a doctor. These products may be poisonous if orally ingested. This is not a smoking cessation product and has not been tested or guaranteed as such. Has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug. For their protection, please keep out of reach of children and pets. If you do suffer from the disease of Tobacco/Nicotine Dependence Syndrome and want to take steps to give up smoking or cut down the quantity of cigarettes you currently smoke, we recommend you visit your health authorities to discuss NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy) or a nicotine harm reduction programme.

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