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The History of Vaping: A Brief Introduction

The History of Vaping: A Brief Introduction

The history of vaping is fascinating and worth knowing if you are a fan of vaping. It extends all the way back to 1930 to today, and believe it or not, the modern-day electronic cigarette was made because of a dream. In today’s blog, we go over the most important segments of vaping history to give you a brief introduction into how vaping came to be. 

Table of Contents:

  1. The 1930s to 1990s
  2. The 1990s to 2008
  3. 2008 to Today

The 1930s to 1990s

It all started in 1930. Or so that’s what the patent office of the United States points to. In 1930 a patent was granted to a fellow by the name of Joseph Robinson, which featured a device that made the first reference to a device that could vaporize liquids. Unfortunately, the device was never manufactured, and all that remains is the patent which you can check out here. On top of the patent image, the words read “electric vaporizer,” but he envisioned the device would be used for “medical compounds” and not to replace cigarettes. Still, many point to this as the origin of the electronic cigarette. 

Fast forward three decades later to the 1960s (1963 to be exact), and another device, and what many consider to be the first electronic cigarette, was patented. The man behind the invention, Herbert Gilbert, again like his predecessor, found a hard time finding backing to manufacture the device, and it remained a patent. He called it the “smokeless non-tobacco cigarette.” You can check out the patent here. This was the first time an alternative to cigarettes had been dreamed up. 

Twenty years later, in 1979, Phil Ray, one of the persons behind the invention of the computer, was out to create history after he and his physician, Doctor Norman Jacobson, believed they could replace cigarettes with a paper cigarette that used liquid nicotine. While the idea was not electronic, it was the first cigarette alternative that reached major retailers. It was known as “The Favor Cigarette,” which had no smoke but all the satisfaction of a cigarette. They also pioneered the first research in nicotine delivery and introduced the word “vape” into the vernacular. However, “The Favor Cigarette” never took off due to the poor shelf life of pure nicotine, which after a while, according to Dr. Jacobson, “becomes rather bitter tasting,” and the company went under.

In the 1980s, Jed Rose, the man who invented the first nicotine patch at UCLA, started working with something he called “distilled smoke”; however, the device, according to him, was too ahead of its time, and again it never saw production. 

The 1990s to 2008

According to CASAA, there were numerous attempts made in the 1990s to find an alternative to cigarettes, but few resembled what we know now as electronic cigarettes. Attempts to bring cigarette alternatives to life dwindled after the FDA, which did not yet regulate tobacco products, but did regulate drug delivery devices, denied the request of a major US tobacco company to bring to market an electronic cigarette in 1998. This may have deflated all other attempts and made the technology come to a halt. 

That is until 2003, when a 54-year-old pharmacist from Beijing, China, had a nicotine-induced dream. He dreamed, thanks to nicotine patches he forgot to take off, that he was drowning in the sea. As he was sinking underwater, the sea suddenly evaporated into a fog, and he woke up with a brand new idea, he would come up with a device that could vaporize nicotine. This pharmacist and inventor was Hon Lik, whose father had recently passed away from lung cancer, which was attributed to his father’s heavy smoke habits. Wanting to escape the same fate, he soon began to work on the device, and in 2003 he turned in his patent. The company he worked for loved the device and decided to manufacture it; in fact, they believed in the product so much that they changed their name to Ruyan, meaning “like smoke,” and started selling their e-cigarettes the same year, and in 2006 these e-cigarettes entered the United States and Europe. 

2008 to Today

It was not long after the invention of the electronic cigarette that the World Health Organization would deem the new invention unfit to be marketed as a “smoking cessation product,” declaring that “As far as WHO is aware, no rigorous, peer-reviewed studies have been conducted showing that the electronic cigarette is a safe and effective nicotine replacement therapy” and also demanded that manufacturers of these products stop labeling them as such.

From here, numerous countries move forward to ban electronic cigarettes in one way or another; countries and cities that ban cigarettes around 2009 include Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Jordan, Panama, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia, to name a few. 

In June 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act giving the FDA full authority to regulate the tobacco industry. The act states that cigarettes and nicotine can not be banned, but their flavored products can. It also states that new tobacco products entering the market must meet the pre-market FDA standards to see if they are fit to be sold in the United States. 

Fast forward ten years later and in 2019, while President of the United States, Donald Trump, proposes banning flavored e-cigarettes. He accomplished his goal a year later, in January 2020, with a partial ban of flavored pod systems used in vape devices like the JUUL. Later in the year, on December 27, he signed into law The Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act. The act effectively bans the United States Postal Service from shipping vaping products. 


While it seems that the history of the electronic cigarette seems to be coming to a standstill, we are hopeful for the future of vapes and believe that, after more studies are done on the long-term effects, laws will relax, and we’ll find that e-cigarettes are a great alternative to regular cigarettes.


EjuiceDB articles and blogs are meant to entertain and educate. However, we are not medical professionals and do not intend to give medical advice through them. Furthermore, Vaping products and nicotine use are only meant for persons over the age of 21.

Children, breastfeeding and pregnant women, persons with risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or that take medications especially for depression or asthma should not use nicotine or vaping products. Always consult a licensed physician prior to use.

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Andres Roman

Andres Roman is a content writer with 3+ years of experience, a former 3 pack a week smoker who used vaping to kick the habit, he now wants to educate the world about vaping. You can find him on Linkedin and Twitter.