The History Of Vaping: How Vaping Evolved From Obscurity Into a Cultural Phenomenon
Vaping: it’s the latest craze sweeping the world today. In the last three years, users around the world have spent a combined 3.5 million dollars on e-cigarettes alone. With new mods, new juices, and even professional cloud chasers, vaping won’t be going away anytime soon.
But what is it and where did it start?
That first question is a no-brainer. Vaping is the inhalation and exhalation of the aerosol vapor produced by your e-cig.
That next question, though, takes a little longer to answer. See, vaping isn’t as recent a trend as you might think. The history of vaping dates back to the pyramids, and it didn’t achieve popularity right out of the gate.
Sit back, relax, and take a puff as we journey back in time to see the history of vaping.
The Ancient History of Vaping
Smoking has been a fabric of human existence for the better part of 8000 years. Tobacco grew wild in the Americas, eventually becoming a part of early Native American religious rituals.
But America wasn’t the only place lighting up.
Greece and India
In ancient Greece, Herodotus recorded tales of vapor baths around 400 BC. According to him, bathers would throw hemp-seed onto hot stones and bask in the smoke. They enjoyed it so much, Herodotus said, they would “howl with pleasure.”
If we journey a few thousand miles eastward, we’ll find Indian monks using chillum pipes made of clay. Chillums were a two-person affair. The smoker would hold it, and the person next to him would light it, a tradition continued by Buddhist monks today.
1st – 14th Century Europe
It wasn’t until the 900s AD that the Mayans first rolled tobacco into a cigar, binding palm and plantain leaves with string. 600 years later, the Chinese crafted the first hookahs, and in 1560 French explorer Jean Nicot introduced nicotine to Europe.
Early on in the 1600s, pipes became popular for personal. Most used long stem wood or arched clay; a style continued today among old school enthusiasts.
Early colonial settlers in America, especially Virginia, established a thriving tobacco trade in the 1620s, exporting it back to England. Even after the revolution, tobacco played a starring role in the U.S. economy well into the 20th century.
Later on in the 1660s, the LaCroix family of France rolled tobacco with paper. Their first client? Emperor Napoleon himself. Their invention influenced the commercial cigarettes of the 1860s and the cigarette making machine twenty years later.
The early 1800s introduced the world to the percolator. We might call it a bong today. Oddly enough, it started in the coffee industry. Somewhere along the way, it made a change and the history of vaping changed with it.
But as more and more smokers ingested nicotine, it became clear that tobacco came with deadly consequences. Early 20th century inventors began seeking safer alternatives.
The Vaping Founding Fathers
The history of vaping would never be the same without the contributions of Joseph Robinson, Herbert A. Gilbert, Phil Ray and Norman Jacobson, and Hon Lik.
These men, working over a period of seventy years, gave birth to vaping as we know it today.
The first patent ever filed for an e-cigarette came from New York and Joseph Robinson. His “electric vaporizer” used a battery powered heat source. It gave the user the same sensation as a regular cigarette without the smoke.
Unfortunately for Robinson, his invention failed to take off. None of his electric vaporizers went into production. It would be another thirty years before another inventor stepped to the plate.
Herbert A. Gilbert
In 1963, Herbert A. Gilbert made his contribution to the history of vaping. Unlike Robinson, however, Gilbert’s “smokeless, non-tobacco cigarette” used no nicotine. Instead, users would enjoy flavored steam.
Unfortunately, like Robinson before him, Gilbert failed. All of his attempts to commercialize his invention never worked. Big tobacco was too strong. The world wasn’t ready yet. It would be just under twenty years before anyone would try again.
Phil Ray and Norman Jacobson
Techies may know Phil Ray as a pioneer in the computer industry. But he also played a prominent role in the history of vaping.
Together with his physician, Norman Jacobson, Phil Ray created a variation of the e-cigarette and commercialized it. Their device relied on the evaporation of nicotine as a mode of delivery.
While it did reach many major retailers in the early 80s, the Ray-Jacobson device wasn’t a global sensation. Ray attributed the failure to faulty technology. It turned out evaporated nicotine wasn’t a practical mode of delivery.
Their one lasting contribution to the history of vaping? The word itself.
Robinson failed. Gilbert failed. Ray and Jacobson came close, but they failed too. The history of vaping seemed to stop before it had even begun. But a new century brought innovation and, it would be a 52-year-old Chinese pharmacist who would capitalize on it.
Hon Lik was an inventor, besides being a pharmacist, and an avid smoker. But after his father passed away from lung cancer, Hon decided to make a better alternative.
In 2003, he made his prototype and the company he worked for, Golden Dragon Holdings, developed it for the Chinese market. Three years later it was introduced to Europe, and in the following months, it made its way to the U.S.
It was the first successful international e-cig in the history of vaping.
The Recent History of Vaping
Skepticism marred the years following Lik’s initial success. As early as 2008, countries such as Turkey banned the sale and use of e-cigarettes. The World Health Organization disavowed e-cigarettes as an alternative to traditional tobacco.
Even Amazon prohibited their sale on their website.
But for every detractor, there were more followers, coming together in the courtroom and the convention hall. Groups formed. Vaping gained strength.
Pretty soon, even science came around.
The first convention in the history of vaping was Vape Fest, held in the UK in October 2010. Not long after that, the first U.S. based convention, Vapestock, was held in Clearwater Beach, Florida.
Now you can find a convention anywhere in the world. It’s a place where vapers can come together and get the latest mods and juices. Newer vapers can get all their questions answered.
And of course, there are the freebies.
Vaping conventions provide a sense of community. What’s better than chasing a cloud and making a new friend? Speaking of which…
What’s the complete history of vaping without a little competition?
With vaping’s rising popularity came an offshoot of vapers looking to have fun. As early as 2013, competitors, called cloud chasers, got together to see who could blow the thickest cloud.
In less than two years, regional tournaments popped up around the globe with sponsored professionals competing for cash prizes. Nowadays, there are even international competitions like the International Cloud Championships in California or the rotating World Series of Vaping.
How does it work you ask?
Two cloud chasers stand back to back. They then inhale and try to blow out the largest cloud they can.
Judges determine a winner based on length, girth, and thickness. Whoever has the most of each, wins.
It sounds simple, but chasers work tirelessly modding their devices to get the thickest plume.
While no one’s quit their jobs to chase clouds full time, don’t be surprised to see leagues forming soon.
E-cigarettes have evolved throughout the history of vaping. Despite FDA bans, the industry thrives, always looking for new ways to please their customers.
But let’s take a step back. Let’s look at the technology of the modern e-cig and how it’s changed over the years.
Hon Lik’s prototype provided the blueprint for today’s e-cigs. It came with a battery, plastic cartridge, ultrasonic atomizer, and a nicotine solution contained in propylene glycol.
The battery powered the atomizer which heated the solution, turning it into vapor and delivering the nicotine. Later two brothers in the UK, Umer and Tariq Sheikh, replaced the atomizer with the cartomizer, connecting directly to the battery.
Vapes could now last longer and, with the addition of the clearomizer, you could see how much liquid you use and get a better taste.
Over time, battery voltages became adjustable. Juice flavor diversified. Even the solution changed to a safer vegetable glycerin. The shape’s changed too, from cigarette look-a-likes to pens, to cylinders. That’s not to mention the unique e-cigs you can modify.
New Science on E-Cigarettes
The history of vaping, like the history of anything else, is not without conflict. Ever since Lin’s success, governments have never fully embraced vaping. They contend it poses the same risk as smoking, but new scientific studies dispute that claim.
As early as 2008, scientists studied the safety of e-cigarettes.
Health New Zealand found carcinogens below harmful levels. They concluded that e-cigs were much less dangerous than traditional cigarettes. But their funding by Hon Lik’s parent company, Ruyan, formerly Golden Dragon Holdings, may have biased those results.
The FDA conducted its own study on e-cigarettes in 2009, finding trace amounts of nicotine despite advertisements claiming otherwise.
However, that study came under scrutiny from Exponent, Inc., a scientific consulting firm. They criticized the FDA’s findings, citing poor documentation and a failure to compare e-cigarettes with approved nicotine replacements.
Two years later two more studies championed the e-cigarette’s ability to help smokers quit.
The American Journal of Preventative Medicine published a study reporting higher abstinence rates among e-cig users than traditional tobacco replacements. A study published in the journal “Addiction” found that e-cigarettes were more successful than conventional remedies at reducing or stopping cigarette use.
In 2014, Dr. Igor Burstyn published a paper determining that contaminant levels in e-cig vapor were too low to cause any significant harm, to users or bystanders.
Based on all these studies, the scientific consensus seems to be that vaping and e-cigs aren’t as dangerous as some might think. They might even prove beneficial to smokers looking to quit.
Who doesn’t like the idea of less lung cancer in the world?
The history of vaping is a long, winding road from the ancient Greeks to modern cloud chasers. What started as a way to kick a bad habit has blossomed into a past time, a community, and a thriving industry.
It hasn’t always been flavorful. Failure and skepticism cloud the history of vaping, but when the smoke cleared, people realized how great it could be. Even science came around.
What the future holds for vaping is unclear. Will it replace traditional smoking? How popular will cloud chasing become? What new technology will emerge?
Who knows? All you can do is a take a deep breath and puff away.
You can also check out our website for more content on vaping. Whether you’re a vaping virgin or an experienced veteran, we’ve got something for everyone.
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