Who created the e-cigarette? The truth about vaping’s origins
Like it or not, there’s a lot of false information out there about vaping and e-cigarettes; even in the so-called reliable, mainstream media. One such example is information regarding the invention, creation and developing of the e-cig. Indeed, if you’ve always assumed it was invented by the big tobacco companies – as some sort of an attempt at a backdoor gateway for non-smokers to get hooked on tobacco – then you’re totally wrong. It was, in fact, created by those against smoking, as a deliberate device that would aid smokers to kick the habit; something which, happily, it’s succeeding in doing very nicely, thank you very much.
The early days
Anti-vaping activists – and journalists sentimental to their cause – like nothing better than to repeat the above charge that tobacco companies were behind the invention and launch of e-cigs and vaping. It couldn’t be further from the truth; not least because, down through the years, the tobacco industry and its lobbyists have supported efforts to have e-cigs banned.
The truth is that the e-cig dates all the way back to 1963 – yes, nearly 55 years ago! – when American inventor Herbert A. Gilbert sought a patent for a ‘smokeless non-tobacco cigarette’ – doesn’t sound very tobacco-smoking friendly, does it? Granted, this early model may not have contained any nicotine (thus, surely wouldn’t have been that effective a device for smokers looking around for an immediate alternative), but did generate a flavoured vapour. Moreover, back then, unfortunately few deemed tobacco as particularly harmful – in the US alone, about 50% of men and 44% of women were smoking regularly.
A change is gonna come…
Quite clearly, Gilbert was on to a good thing but decades ahead of his time; this was proved in 2001 when traditional Chinese medicine expert and pharmacist Hon Lik began to experiment with a vaporisation system, following his decision to kick his heavy smoking habit owing to his father dying from lung cancer. He went through many liquids/ vapours to find something that offered the sensation of inhaling tobacco, finally discovering the non-toxic food additive propylene glycol was up to the task, not least because it worked well as a solvent with nicotine and flavourings to create a vape liquid (or ‘e-juice’).
However, the big advantage over Gilbert’s efforts that Lik was able to exploit was the technological advances made in battery technology over the intervening years. By the turn of the millennium, affordable, high-capacity batteries were available; to be precise, lithium ion batteries that are to be found in smartphones, laptops and the such like. These batteries would be small enough to both fit in and pocket-sized e-cig device and power it for hours before recharging would be necessary. That said, despite the big jump forwards from Gilbert’s design that Lik’s featured in terms of battery power, his device – first released in 2004 – contained an atomiser and heated coil to heat up the e-juice and generate vapour, just as Gilbert’s model had.
So much for the origins then – we have much to thank both Gilbert and Lik for their vision, dedication, hard work and overall efforts – but, due to the vision of others, the e-cig device first sold 13 years ago has now been added to and enhanced thanks to further inventions. Indeed, eager UK vapers Tariq and Umer Sheikh ensured the e-cig became a simpler, less wieldy affair by combing its cartridge and atomiser into a cartomiser, effectively doing away with Lik’s original three-piece design. Meanwhile, fellow Brit inventors Matt and Ted Rogers came up with the very first mechanical vape modulator (or ‘mod’), in order to increase vapour, throat hit and the e-juice’s overall flavour.
And more vape enthusiasts have come up with bits and pieces to enhance and improve the e-cig experience, some of their experiments resulting in more inventions that have been eagerly lapped up by the vaping mainstream. Don’t doubt it then, the story of the e-cigarette’s creation is one of a desire to do good while providing an enjoyable, satisfying experience – from the very beginning its precise aim was to offer a far healthier alternative to tobacco smoking. And, owing to how fundamentally brilliant an idea and invention it was, the e-cig (once realised as a physical device) exploded on to the scene and now acts as something of a foundation that further additional touches here and there build on; just like all the best inventions, in fact. Definitely far from something the tobacco industry’s in favour of – so, good news all round then!