Published on September 9th, 2019 | by Theo0
History of Vaping
Vaping has come a long way since its inception a decade and a half ago. There are new kits being released every week from just about every brand, from pod kits to vape pens to super powerful box mods. It’s easy to forget they’re still a relatively new form of technology. If you’ve only been vaping for a little while, there are plenty of changes that have happened in a short period of time you probably won’t know about. While there’s evidence of early humans using hot stones to press herbs to vaporise them, we’re going to cover the more recent history. We’ll start with the first commercially successful e-cig and cover up to the present day designs.
The first e-cig
Most of the biggest e-cig manufacturers have factories in the city of Shenzhen in China. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that China was where they were originally invented too. The first commercially available vape was released back in 2004 when inventor Hon Lik patented the design. Hon is a pharmacist who used to be a heavy smoker himself and also watched his own father pass away from smoking related lung cancer in 2001. The first vape had an “ultrasonic” design and came in three parts. While it offered an alternative for smokers, it didn’t offer a whole lot of satisfaction for many consumers. It did however open up the path for further technological advances.
Single use e-cigs aka cig-a-likes
Next, we got single use cig-a-likes. They had the same shape and appearance as a conventional “analog” cigarette, complete with a yellow filter and an LED that lit up as you inhaled. They were pre-filled and had a battery that essentially lasted as long as your e-liquid capacity did. Once they ran flat (or ran out of e-liquid) you threw them away. Their flavours were pretty limited, the nicotine hit was average and over time they became expensive to keep purchasing because you couldn’t refill them. Not to mention, they were pretty wasteful.
Cig-a-likes are still around today. You might find them in gas stations or an off license but they mainly served as a stepping stone for the next stage of vaping. E-cig users wanted something better – more flavour, a better nicotine hit and something refillable.
Second gen e-cigarettes: we got tanks
Finally, we got to a point where refillable tanks and clearomisers were a thing. Similar in design to Hon Lik’s original e-cig, they came in separate parts – a battery and a tank that could be filled with your e-liquid of choice. Joyetech created the eGo ecig back in 2009. It comprised a battery (that was actually rechargeable) with a refillable tank that housed its own coil and allowed users more control over how they inhaled. This also meant you got a lot more use out of it than you would with a cig-a-like.
Original models were still fairly basic. You’d often experience things like the odd leaky tank or spit-back when you were vaping. Some people got creative and built their own mods – unregulated devices that required a bit of physics knowledge. It meant they could control coil resistance more as well as how cloudy their vape was. This earmarked the start of coil building, Sub Ohm vaping and more advanced kit options.
Say hello to pod kits and nicotine salts
While Big Tobacco might have written off vaping as a trend or fad that would go out of style before long, vaping had been around for a number of years by this point. British American Tobacco (BAT) released the Vype vape kit in 2013. Altria followed suit by purchasing e-cig brand Green Smoke which was rebranded to blu. Both of these brands are still popular amongst new vapers these days.
Pod kits offered transitioning smokers a more convenient way to vape than traditional clearomisers and eGo batteries. They had the benefits of single use pods, but had a reusable battery meaning they were more cost efficient in the long run – as well as being less messy.
You’ve almost certainly heard of Juul. The vaping giant released their pod kit complete with nicotine salt e-liquid pods back in 2015. Since then, they’ve had a meteoric rise to fame with more than a 70% market share in the US. Nic salts in particular were a huge step for the vaping industry. While freebase nicotine is enough for some, heavier smokers often needed a more instant hit and higher dose without losing out on flavour. Nic salts ticked all of those boxes and made vaping a more viable choice for those trying to switch from smoking.
RDAs, variable wattage, more power and vaping goes mainstream
By 2015, plenty of people had been vaping for years at this point. Things like RDAs, powerful Sub Ohm box mods, unregulated mech mods and temperature control offered vapers complete control over their experience. It was also becoming more commonplace to see people blowing big clouds on the street. And, as of 2018, there were 3 million vapers in the UK alone.
It’s become a hobby for many people. No longer just a means to quit a habit but rather an enjoyable hobby that can be totally customised to each individual vaper. There are now more flavours, kits and brands than ever before.
The vaping subculture
With that in mind, there’s now a whole vaping subculture both online and in real life. Gone are the days were the vaping stereotype was purely transitioning smokers or heavily tattooed men in hoodies working in vape shops. There are a huge number of forums online purely dedicated to discussing the latest vape kits, accessories and tanks. You’ll also find plenty of people on Instagram making a living from trialling and reviewing everything from pod mods to e-liquids to Sub Ohm kits. Not to mention the tricks some of them are capable of.
Popping into your local vape shop offers an experience not totally dissimilar to going to a bar. You can sit at the counter, try a whole lot of different e-liquids and the latest tech before taking something new home. You can also go to vaping conventions, with all the biggest names attending to showcase their latest offerings. From basic and limited choices back in 2004 to a world of options with new flavours and kits being released every week, the vaping industry and the technology that goes with it looks to be here to stay.