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Vaping 101: The History of Vaping

30th Nov 2016

For the first instalment in our brand new Vaping 101 series, we wanted to take things back to basics and start with the history of vaping. After all, what better place to start is there than at the very beginning?

E-cigarettes are often thought of as a cutting edge technology that only sprung up in recent years, so you might be surprised to learn that the modern e-cigarette gets its roots from a patent that was filed almost 90 years ago in New York.

From Joseph Robinson’s original ‘electric vaporiser’ to Hon Lik’s first prototype, vaping has piqued the interest of millions and has gone on an incredible journey of reinvention and revolution, starting all the way back in 1927.

Vaping History


New York resident, Joseph Robinson, filed a patent for an ‘electric vaporiser’. The patent was granted in 1930 but the vaporiser was never manufactured. It’s fascinating to look at how closely this design resembles a modern day e-cigarette and the full description is hosted here by Google Patents.


Herbert Gilbert patented the ‘Smokeless Non-tobacco Cigarette’. Hailed by many as the creator of vaping, he stays out of the limelight but conducted his first ever on-camera interview in 2012, which you can watch here.


Technology pioneer, Phil Ray, and his personal doctor, Norman Jacobson, worked to create the first commercial e-cigarette. Although they created a device, it relied on the evaporation of nicotine and was deemed a dead-end.


Chinese medical researcher, Hon Lik, patents and manufactures the first electronic cigarette in Beijing, China. Would you believe that the idea for the design came to him in a dream?


The first e-cigarette becomes available to the public, consisting of an ultrasonic atomiser, plastic cartridge and battery. The devices hit the Chinese market first but quickly make their way to the UK, the US and the rest of the international market by the end of the year.


Australia, Jordan, Canada, Hong Kong and Brazil (amongst others) ban the sale of e-cigarettes. Vaping starts to come under scrutiny and numerous anti-vaping papers are published, though at this time there is very little official research to confirm the benefits of e-cigarettes.


Vaping events begin to emerge, with VapeFest being held in both the UK and US for the first time. This marks the beginning of a sub-culture that nobody saw coming, that has been growing and growing ever since and fascinated (and perplexed!) the media for years.


BMC Public Health suggests e-cigarette as a potential harm reduction tool, after the conclusion of the first clinic trial of e-cigarettes.


Vaping advocacy begins, when 200 German vapers marched in Dusseldorf to protest ‘lies and misinformation’against vaping.


The first details of the TPD begin to emerge and the first E-Cigarette Summit is held at the Royal Society in London. It was these details that reinforced the need for more research into vaping and the importance of education.


In August, Public Health England releases the landmark independent review that confirms e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than smoking.


The TPD comes into effect in the EU, alongside stricter FDA regulations in the US. Despite this, vaping reaches an all-time high and more and more innovative devices are being brought to the market every month.

Nobody knows what the future holds for vaping but we hope that the ground-breaking research and changing attitudes that have been prevalent in the latter half of 2016 continue well into 2017 and beyond. Speaking of 2017, it will be the 90th birthday of the original e-cigarette - that sounds like a good reason to celebrate, don’t you think?