History of Vaping: Introduction

I still remember the first time I heard talking about “e-cigarettes”. It was something new, strange and not that many people knew about it. Moreover, back then it was considered a passing fad. Furthermore, the concept of “vaping” and “electronic cigarette” was not understood, and the future of vaping technology seemed destined to stagnation.

It takes time to introduce something new as people have customs, preconceived ideas and habits (good and bad ones). For instance, in the Western world we know tomatoes since the discovery of the Americas. However, it took centuries for Europeans to appreciate tomatoes as food. Furthermore, during centuries it was just considered a beautiful ornamental plant as it was thought tomatoes were poisonous. Nowadays, it has become a staple food in throughout the world.

Tobacco had a similar process! However, its use was rapidly assimilated, perhaps because nicotine is a highly addictive substance.

Nonetheless, it was also considered demonic by the Spanish Inquisition and it was banned in many countries. For example, China was the first country to ban tobacco in the XVII century.

We might think that vaping is something new. However, we have been inhaling vapors since thousands of years. The history of vaping goes back to the Ancient Egypt.

History of Vaping: First Vaping Products

Vaping in the Antiquity

The Ebers papyrus, which dates back to 1500 BCE, is considered the best-preserved record of Egyptian medicine. The Ebers papyrus includes nasal treatments consisting of inhalation of vapors and smokes.

Not only the ancient Egyptians used fumes and vapors to cure a wide variety of ailment. For instance, the ancient Persians also used vapors to cure respiratory diseases.

Apparently, the Scythians also inhaled vapors from the cannabis plant. According to the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, cannabis was a common ritualistic plant used by the Scythians. Herodotus mentions the Scythian’s use of cannabis as a recreational hallucinogen in his Histories (5th century BCE), which is commonly considered the oldest mention of the drug.

Moreover, inhalation therapies were also common in ancient Rome, where general public baths with warm water were widely available.

Later, the Arabs developed and improved the usage of vapors for therapeutic purposes. For instance, in the 8th century Arab world it was common to use warm baths, clay jars and metallic pots for vapor inhalation.

Vaping in the modern era

We have all heard about hookahs. There is some controversy about where and who invented the hookah. Some sources claim that it was invented in the Mughal Empire during Akbar the Great’s reign in India in the XVI century. On the other hand, there are some sources claiming that hookahs were already invented in Persia.

Hookahs soon became very popular among the Indian noblemen. It was widely used by the upper Indian class and later extended to other social groups.

Hookahs could be considered a precursor of vaping. As a matter of fact, they were invented to clean the smoke from impurities.

The recipient at the bottom of the hookah is filled with water. On the top of the hookah, there is a bowl to place the tobacco molasses. A foil separates the tobacco from the charcoal. The hot air vaporizes the molasses and the vapor passes down through the body tube into the bottom recipient filled with water. Consequently, we can consider hookahs a precursor of vaping as the molasses isn’t burned but heat up.

The history of vaping and the future of vaping technology is very interesting. As we can see, it evolved from a purely medical therapy to a healthier tobacco smoking method. Nonetheless, hookahs were designed as a healthier alternative to smoking.

Portable Vapes: modern e-cigarettes

The idea of e-cigarettes isn’t that new. For instance, it was Herbert A. Gilbert the first person that invented the vaporizer in 1963. He patented a cylinder vaporizer that worked by atomizing a liquid, just the same way as modern vaping devices. Herbert A. Gilbert called his device “the smokeless”. However, it was in the 1930’s when we first heard about electronic cigarettes. A patent was granted to a man called Joseph Robinson in 1930. However, this electronic cigarette was never commercialized, and no prototypes were manufactured.

At that time, health authorities started to link lung cancer with tobacco smoking. Therefore, e-cigarettes were a safer alternative that could save millions of lives. However, Herbert A. Gilbert did not find the necessary support to develop and produce his cylinder-like vaporizers.

1970-80S and the creation of the term “vaping”

In 1979, a man called Phil Ray, came up with the idea of inhaling the vapor of pure nicotine instead of smoking it. Phil Ray wasn’t just an imaginative person, he was a genius who is credited as the inventor of micro processers.

However, this vaping device wasn’t electronic. It was a piece of plastic shaped as a cigarette and within the cigarette a filter paper soaked in nicotine.

Favor advertisement , a precursor of e-cigarettes.

This invention was smokeless and no vapor production either. However, they created the term “vape” and it could be considered a “precursor” for modern vaping devices.

New Revolutionary Methods

In 1994, R.J Reynolds Tobacco, designed a cigarette that heats the tobacco instead of burning it. However, this system releases some tar in the process, although very low tar levels compared to normal cigarettes.

Eclipse cigarettes, another alternative to common cigarettes. These cigarettes used a carbon tip wrapped in glass fiber. A heat-not-burn cigarette.

Nevertheless, it seems as this new method was not approved by the FDA (the FDA regulates drug delivery devices).  Furthermore, it seems as consumer adoption rates didn’t reach the expectations. As of 2019, this method is not currently available or it has a very limited supply.

Modern E-Cigarettes: Future of Vaping Technology

The e-cigarette was forgotten for decades and the smoking rates continue to raise. It was not until Han Li (sometimes spelled in Cantonese as Hon Lik) invented the modern e-cigarette that it started to gain some popularity. Nonetheless, it still took some years for e-cigarettes to become widely popular.

Han Li or Hon Lik is a Chinese businessman and the co-founder of Dragonite International Limited. He came up with the idea of developing an electric cigarette because he was a heavy smoker as it was his father who later died of lung cancer.

Other tobacco replacement therapies are not as efficient as vaping. The reason is very simple, it is not just about a nicotine addiction, but to a whole process (lighting the cigarette to inhaling and exhaling, slow or fast puffs, hand to mouth habit etc).

Vaping keeps the hand to mouth and mouth to lung processes. Moreover, the vapor is similar to smoke, but odorless (odorless just after a few seconds) and most importantly, without tar.

Han Li designed the Ruyan (如烟) “like smoking” in Chinese. The Ruyan had three parts: a battery, a pod containing the nicotine solution and an atomizer.

The Ruyan was the first electronic cigarette as we know them nowadays. In short, the Ruyan is a fundamental device in the history of vaping.

History of Vaping: China and the Development of the Vaping Industry

After the design of the Ruyan device, many more other devices were designed and manufactured. In addition, Chinese e-cigarette companies were pioneers in the development of e-cigarette technology. For instance, many top brands like Aspire are Chinese.

Nowadays, we have many different models but all function in a similar way. For instance, there are three basic models: cartomizers, RDA (rebuildable dripping atomizers) and clearomizers.

Cigalikes, for instance, are cartomizers. In other words, vaping devices with disposable pods. For example, Aspire has vaping devices with disposable pods such as the Aspire SLX.

Early vaping mods atomizers were generally rebuildable dripping atomizers (RDA). Basically, these atomizers need the vaper to drip the e-liquid directly into the wick material and coil.

Future of Vaping: Sub-Ohm Vapes

An old Aspire Nautilus tank.
History of Vaping: an old Aspire Nautilus tank.

Vaping devices continued to evolve. Many RDA atomizers are sub-ohm devices, but they did not have a tank to store the e-liquid. Aspire was the first vaping company to develop sub-ohm tanks with the introduction of Nautilus tanks.

Moreover, after Aspire, many other vaping companies developed their own sub-ohm tanks.

Vaping and Health

There has been much controversy about vaping and health, especially for the last months, especially in the US with black market e-liquids and an acute lung condition. As a result, some vapers reported respiratory problems.

It is important to emphasize that it was not a chronic illness. On the contrary, it was an acute respiratory illness. In other words, an acute respiratory illness caused by black-market e-liquids.

What’s Next? Future of Vaping Technology

Firstly, the vaping industry will continue developing. Probably, the future of vaping technology will go towards the development of smart devices. Moreover, the batteries will be more powerful and smaller and the development of new high-performance battery sources will be another future challenge in the vaping industry.

Furthermore, with the IoT (Internet of Things) we will have more vaping devices connected to a smart watch, smartphones and similar devices.

Nonetheless, many vapers would like to see additional emphasis placed on safety in addition to increased performance. Most of vapers care more about performance and safety than IoT or smart vape devices. In short, it seems as most of vapers prefer a future of vaping technology focusing more on performance and safety than added features such as IoT and connect your vaping device with apps or smartwatches etc.

In addition, another interesting feature would be a vaping device that would allow the vaper to instantly control nicotine intake. How? perhaps with dual tanks with different nicotine strengths and the development of mobile apps to track the nicotine consumption.

Conclusion: Future of Vaping Technology

Future of vaping technology: Aspire new pod system with adjustable wattage, voltage and airflow.
History of Vaping and Future of vaping technology: Aspire new pod system with adjustable wattage, voltage and airflow.

Furthermore, it’s interesting to see how humanity has been using vapors for so long time. For example, in ancient times, vapors were mainly use for therapeutic and recreational purposes (Egyptians, Scythians, Persians, Arabs). Can we consider these techniques as part of the history of vaping? I would say ‘yes’, we can consider them as part of the history of vaping or the precursors of we know as vaping.

Since the 1960s, we know more about the negative effects of smoking. In this article we have chronologically described many “healthier” alternatives to tobacco smoking. From the hookah developed in India/Persia to e-cigarettes and its precursors.

To summarize, the future of vaping will go towards smart devices connected to our smartphones and other smart devices. In addition, more focus on safety and performance is what most of vapers want. In conclusion, the future of vaping technology means smarter, safer and more efficient devices.

Finally and most importantly, the future of vaping technology will continue going towards healthier nicotine-intake methods. Let us write the history of vaping together!


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