A Brief History of Vaping Technology


Vaping is considered to be a new phenomenon. While it has never been so popular than right now, its history is long and interesting. It’s hard to say where this history starts. But we are not going to look too far in the past. Some topics like the hookah-smoking traditions in ancient Persia and India can’t be covered in a few sentences.

E-cigarettes may belong to a family of vaping devices. But it’s a representative of the latest generation. So, it’s best to start with Herbert A. Gilbert, which is often called a grandfather of a modern e-cigarette.

Ahead of the time

A graduate of the business school and a Korean War veteran, Gilbert worked in his dad’s scrap yard in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. An intelligent and resourceful young man was inspired to create an innovative electronic cigarette while solving his household problem.

When he burnt junk, the smoke usually reached the yard of his neighbor. Gilbert made a meaningful observation. He noticed that materials like dry wood and leaves carried no harm.  The smoke they released as they burned was harmful.

This crucial observation illustrates the major benefit of vaping. Hilbert understood that combustion led to unsafe smoke. This wasn’t the issue with heat. An inventor noticed that his aunt used heat in her bakery. She didn’t burn food, she cooked it.

His aunt’s oven and a cup of tea pushed him on a brilliant idea – to heat a flavored water by a battery and get vapor imitating smoke!

The patent for the “smokeless, non-tobacco cigarette” was submitted on the 17th April 1963. However, the search for a manufacturer was unsuccessful. There were two reasons for that:

  • The product was too costly to produce at those times and the buying price would be too expensive to be commercially viable.
  • In the sixties, smoking wasn’t seen as something that could harm someone’s health. Moreover, a non-smoker was found a bit ‘weird’. People just didn’t need an alternative to then-sophisticated and cool habit.

The Introduction to Vaping

In the late 70’s, Phil Ray and Norman Jacobson produced the first commercialized variation of an e-cigarette. The two met in a hospital. Dr. Jacobson had an ordinary patient. Phil Ray co-invented the microprocessor and also managed the Apollo program.

Ray was addicted to smoking and knew about the dangerous consequences of his habit. He wanted to design a device that would provide pure nicotine. He liked Gilbert’s idea of consuming nicotine without the need to combust anything.

His original idea was to inhale nicotine vapor through filter paper that absorbed liquid nicotine. Well, we could expect a more high-tech approach from one of the microchip’s fathers!

Dr. Jacobson helped Ray to develop an e-cigarette, though there was nothing electronic in it. Their device had a shape and color of a traditional cigarette. But it was made of plastic and had filter paper that was soaked in the nicotine-containing liquid inside. The work of this product didn’t involve combustions and smoke.

Jacobson and Ray finalized their “smokeless” cigarette, found a company, and entered the market with the Favor. The marketing slogan “Do Yourself a Favor” made the product quite popular in the late 1970s and early 80s.

Then the problems appeared. The FDA categorized the Favor as a drug. Jacobson and Ray couldn’t sell their product without FDA approval. Besides, the product had a short shelf life.

Though the Favor is a thing of the past, one Jacobson’s invention is alive to these days. In the trial studies, he wanted to avoid the words “smoking” and “smokers.” He replaced them by self-invented words – “vaping” and “vapers.”

A break in the case

The idea of an e-cig vaporizer was finally brought to life by a Chinese pharmacist named Hon Lik in 2003.

Hon Lik smoked heavily, like his father who died of lung cancer. He decided to quit, but nicotine patches have been ineffective. So, a work over a healthier analog to tobacco cigarettes began. “I already knew it would be a revolutionary product,” Lik told The Spectator in 2015.

It’s unknown whether Hon Lik new about Herbert Gilbert’s project of a smokeless device. However, Lik’s “smokeless non-tobacco cigarette” resembled the schematics of Gilbert. But it had some improvements:

  • Initially, an inventor used ultrasound technology to create the- But the droplets formed were too large and the device didn’t provide the same sensations as cigarette smoke. Then he decided to use a resistance heater and achieved more satisfying results.
  • He used a plastic mouthpiece as a liquid reservoir.
  • High-capacity lithium-ion batteries were installed. The power supply was the major problem in Gilbert’s device.
  • An e-liquid was mainly made of propylene glycol, a substance that is one of the primary ingredients of e-juices to this day.

In 2004, Hon Lik started to sell e-cigarettes at the Chinese market.  By 2006, they were available in Europe and US. The rest is already known. Vaping has taken the world by storm.

Pros and Cons of Vaping


  • No combustion (safer than smoking);
  • No tobacco smell;
  • A wide range of flavors;
  • A rich choice of unique e-


  • Dry mouth;
  • A user needs some time to learn how it works.

The Future of Vaping Technology

In the beginning, the vaping industry focused on reaching cleaner and smoother hits. Later, they made an emphasis on better flavor and larger clouds of vapor. All these points remain critical, along with smarter and more advanced devices.

One of the keys that focuses on future devices is a more long-lasting battery. Heavy vapers need compact vaporizers that have enough power for a whole day of work without the need to recharge. So, the vape gadgets of the future will provide better vaping experience and will be more powerful and intelligent.

About the author:

Frances is a blogger and she wants to become a professional writer in her future. Now she is on the way to her dream. In the field of her interests is topics of healthy lifestyle, mental and physical well-being. In her posts, she focuses on the main problems of smoking and drug & alcohol abuse to suggest the most suitable solutions.

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