When Were Vapes Invented
by Alan Johnson on Dec 08, 2022
When Vapes Were Invented: The Brief History Of Vaping
Electronic vaporizers have recently exploded in popularity. However, as far back as 1927, people have been searching for alternatives to traditional smoking. This has led to advancements in vaping, from the first "cig-a-likes" to the more modern disposable vapes we use today. These are massively popular because of their convenience, taste, and variety, bringing vaping ever-forward into the future.
When Were Vapes Invented And Who Invented Vapes?
1927: Joseph Robinson
Although vapes have been gaining popularity wildly in recent years, they have a long and illustrious history which goes all the way back to 1927. This was when Joseph Robinson came up with the first "electronic vaporizer."
Figures from the patent show that the device itself would look eerily like the vapes of today, with a similar shape and components. He called it the "Mechanical Butane Ignition Vaporizer" and said the device would be for medicinal compounds and filed his patent in May of 1927.
What excited him about this device was that it would allow the user to inhale vapors without the risk of being burned. Hypothetically, this device was meant to keep accidents caused by smoking cigarettes, such as burns or fires, to a minimum.
To our knowledge, there was no prototype ever built by Robinson or from his patent, and it certainly was never commercialized. However, this shows definitively that alternatives to cigarettes have been a priority for almost 100 years.
1963: Herbert A Gilbert
Fast forward more than 40 years, and another inventor picked up the idea. In 1963, Herbert A Gilbert adapted technology that was available at the time to make a cigarette alternative that didn't use combustion. This was crucial to the invention of vapes because it's the same technology that's being used in our modern vapes today.
His invention, patented in 1965, was nicotine-free and produced flavored vapor that was intended to replace tobacco smoke. He even made prototypes. However, in making these prototypes, he realized the restrictions the available technology placed on electronic cigarettes, namely the battery. Batteries available in the early 60s were either throw-away batteries that were expensive and limited in their capacity or heavy, clunky and outrageously expensive rechargeable batteries.
So why haven't we all been vaping since the 60s? First, Gilbert's invention wasn't fashionable enough to take off when it was invented. Moreover, doctors had only just started to warn of the possible dangers of smoking, so no one was worried enough about the effects of tobacco to begin searching for alternatives- especially ones that were relatively new and suffering bugs.
These bugs and lack of understanding about why electronic cigarettes were an excellent alternative contributed to Gilbert’s invention being forgotten for another 40 years, much like the first foray into vaping.
Hon Lik - The Vaping Breakthrough
By 2003, the dangers of smoking were being widely advertised, and more families had stories about the effects. Hon Lik’s family was one of these. A pharmacist from China, Hon Lik, a smoker himself, decided he needed to find a better alternative to smoking after his father passed away from lung cancer.
His experiments involved finding a liquid that would replicate the sensation of inhaling tobacco smoke- something critical for vapes' success. He discovered that propylene glycol gave a close sensation, and this liquid is still one of the key e-cigarette components. Another essential component was the advancements another 40 years had brought to batteries. Finally, Lik had access to lithium batteries that would give hours of run-time with a much lower weight and cost.
This produced an e-cigarette where a lithium battery was inserted into a tube. The energy from that battery atomized the liquid nicotine solution and propylene glycol, creating the basis for the modern vaping technology we use today.
These early vapes were designed to give an experience that closely resembled actual smoking. It was about the size and shape one would expect from a cigar and was named the Ruyan (Chinese for "like smoking").
Lik's invention was commercialized and hit the shelves in 2004 but didn't really start to gain traction until 2006 and 2007, when it entered the European and US markets.
Early vapes, affectionately called "cig-a-likes," began to rise in popularity in the later 2000s, making the jump from the Chinese market to the US and European markets in 2007. Lik's invention would push other inventors to try to slim down the look and feel of e-cigarettes, resembling real cigarettes down to the glowing tip that lit up when users took a puff.
Between the 2007 introduction of the modern vape and the early 2010s, more modifications were being applied to the original. This included vape pens, a much more reliable version.
In 2011, worldwide vapers were estimated to be 7 million. By 2014, that had catapulted to 25 million and by this time, the term "vape" had been an addition to the Oxford English Dictionary and became the word of the year.
Hon Lik’s electronic cigarette released in 2004 was seen as one of the earliest versions of disposable vapes. He created a product that let users consume nicotine without combustion while still getting a real-seeming experience.
Using propylene glycol, Lik approximated the feeling of smoking without combustion. This liquid solution, without the toxic, foreign chemicals found in cigarette products, gave a heated vapor that made way for modern disposable and reusable vapes.
Why Are Disposable Vapes So Popular?
It also makes them a great option for those who can't be bothered with the extras that come with reusable vapes. Rather than learning how to use cartridges and make sure you always have oils and juice on hand, disposable vapes give you a straightforward and convenient method to vape on the go.
Proponents of disposable vapes claim that they taste better than reusable kits. The primary reason being that the cotton wicks inside disposable vapes are more saturated with the taste than the normal cartridges. In addition, because they're pre-filled, the wicks are well-soaked, having sat in storage for sometimes months. This saves you from a burnt taste and the extra time commitment of saturating the wick. Not only does this mean you save time, it also delivers a much better experience for taste.
As disposable vapes have expanded in popularity and technology, the number of brands specializing in them has exploded. Each brand offers a very different experience, letting users narrow down exactly what kind of flavor, smoothness, and extras they want from their disposable vape.
Each brand also offers a wide variety of flavors. While some stick with the regular and classic tastes, others have branched out to include the truly wild and out-there flavors that still somehow work. Instead of committing to a huge cartridge of these tastes, buying disposables lets you hedge your bets so you can try them without committing to something you might not love.
What's great about the convenience of disposable vapes also extends to variety. Disposables are the perfect way to try different brands and flavors. For reusable vapes, many brands make their flavors compatible only with their own devices, whereas disposables don't need to be compatible with anything else. This gives the perfect way to shop around until you find the taste and experience you want.
Out of the Past and On Into The Future
Vapes may have been around in one form or another since 1927, but they constantly expand their influence and usefulness. From the original patents to the modifications that have skyrocketed since the biggest breakthrough in 2003, vapes have come light years forward. With such a strong history behind it, vapes are sure to have more innovations to come.