The History Of Vaping
eGo-style vape pens and larger buildable mods have grown in popularity over the past few years. These products, now readily available, were once only concepts and sketches created by inventors with a vision in mind. Let’s take a journey down memory lane as we explore the history of the modern vape, starting with the earliest records on file.
A long, long time ago, in the year 1930, Joseph Robinson received a patent for a vaporizing device. While he originally filed for this patent on May 3, 1927, his device was never commercialized. It’s not entirely clear if the prototype was ever even produced. Jump ahead thirty years, to the world of Herbert A. Gilbert</a>, the inventor often credited with the creation of the device that most closely resembles our modern e-cigarette. He filed for a patent in 1963, which was granted in 1965, and went on to create prototypes. Unfortunately, Gilbert’s device never took off in the manner he had hoped, attributing his failure to companies preferring to wait for the patent to expire so they could patent their own, instead of paying the license to use his design.
The first commercialized vape wouldn’t come until the end of the ‘70s, when a computer pioneer Phil Ray worked with physician Norman Jacobson to create a version of the current e-cig. The catch? Their “e-cig” was not electronic, it instead depended on evaporation. This did, however, bring about what has been called the “first known formal research” in the area of nicotine delivery. Unlike previous patents and prototypes, the device was commercialized to the point of reaching some major retailers, but it didn’t last. Jacobson claimed the failure of the device was due to faulty design; it never was a promising solution for nicotine delivery. While the device quickly fell out of, it did give us the term “vape.”
The 1990s brought us many things, Furbies, crazy fashion, and the fear of Y2K, it also brought an influx of patents for devices to inhale nicotine. Tobacco companies and solo inventors alike were racing to create a better device. Most of the devices patented during this time relied on evaporation like Jacobson’s “e-cig,” but some used physical propulsion. “Vapes” closely resembling the popular devices of today started to move towards commercialization in the late 1990s. When a major tobacco company requested the FDA’s permission in 1998 to bring an e-cigarette to market, it was denied because it was considered such a creation to be an unapproved drug delivery device. At the time the FDA did not regulate tobacco products, but it did regulate drug delivery devices. It can be hypothesized that this setback influenced attempts of bringing an e-cig to common market in America, and explain the international shift that occurred.
An International Affair
In 2003, things took a turn for the better, with the first commercially successful e-cig being created in Beijing, China. Hon Lik, a 52 pharmacist, smoker, and inventor created the device after losing his father to lung cancer. The device’s name would evolve to Ruyan, a name which means “like smoke.” From there, electronic cigarettes would then be introduced to Europe and America in 2006, with the first import ruling on the U.S. Customs web database being dated for August 2006.
Things didn’t progress smoothly for the first few years, with 2008 being incredibly difficult for the new vaping world. In March, Turkey suspended the sale of e-cigarettes, when they claimed e-cigs are just as harmful as traditional cigarettes. September would bring more hardship as the World Health Organization announced, that it didn’t consider electronic cigarettes to be a legitimate aid to smoking cessation. Following these months of setbacks, October 2008 brought some hope when Health New Zealand conducted a detailed quantitative analysis funded by Ruyan, which concluded that the product tested was a “safe alternative to smoking.”
Bans, Bans, and More Bans
With the start of 2009 came additional frustrations, with Australia banning the possession and sale of e-cigarettes containing nicotine. By March, the FDA had added e-cigs to Import Alert 66-41, directing US Customs and Border Protection to reject the entry of e-cigs into the US; Canada banned the sale, advertisement, and import of e-cigs; and the Hong Kong Department of Health had banned e-cig devices. These changes prompted Smoking Everywhere to file a federal complaint on April 28, 2009, contending that the FDA has no authority over e-cigs considering they are a “tobacco product” which infringes on Congress’s intent to withhold FDA jurisdiction over tobacco products. The FDA would then file a memorandum in opposition of Smoking Everywhere’s complaint on May 11, 2009.
June 2009 would mark a massive change in the tobacco industry, with President Obama signing the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act into law, giving the FDA power to regulate the tobacco industry. While nicotine and cigarettes were not banned outright, flavors including fruit and mint were. This change also meant that new tobacco products wishing to enter the marked must meet FDA pre-market standards. A month later, the FDA released statements discouraging the use of e-cigs.
From its stop-and-start beginnings dating back to 1930, vaporizing devices were long stalled before taking the massive leaps forward in technology that have characterized the last decade. It’s a rich history full of debate, research, bans, learning, and hope for a brighter future. While we have come a long way in the vaping industry, we still have a fight ahead to ensure the rights of vape users. Look ahead for the next article covering the legal turmoil of the 2010s to the present, and the hope for the future of vape users everywhere.