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When Were Vapes Invented?

Ethan Parker

Written by: Ethan Parker

Updated on June 29, 2024


Who Invented The First Vape?

The history of vaping is a fascinating journey through time, marked by a series of innovations and patents that paved the way for the modern e-cigarettes we see today. The inception of the vape can be traced back to as early as 1930 with Joseph Robinson’s patent, or even 1965 with Herbert A. Gilbert’s patent. However, the first commercially successful e-cigarette was not introduced until 2003 by Hon Lik. Here’s a closer look at the timeline and evolution of vaping devices.

Joseph Robinson & Herbert Gilbert’s Early E-Cigarette Patents

In 1927, Joseph Robinson made the first known reference to an e-cigarette in a patent he filed, which was approved in 1930. Robinson’s device was never commercialized, and there is no evidence to suggest that a prototype was ever created. His invention remained an idea, a concept that would lay dormant for decades.

In 1963, Herbert A. Gilbert filed a patent for a non-tobacco, smokeless ‘cigarette’ device. This patent, approved in 1965, described a cigarette that heated moist, flavored air instead of burning tobacco. Despite its innovative approach, Gilbert’s concept did not reach commercialization, leaving another early attempt at an e-cigarette unfulfilled.

The First Commercialized Vape

It wasn’t until 1979 that the first commercialized vaping device was created. Early computer pioneer Phil Ray and his physician, Normal Jacobson, developed a device that evaporated nicotine instead of burning tobacco. Although this product was not particularly successful in the market and major retailers declined to carry it, it marked a significant milestone. Ray and Jacobson’s efforts led to the first known formal research in alternative nicotine delivery methods and the coining of the term “vape.”

World’s First Commercially Successful E-Cigarette

The true breakthrough in vaping came in 2003, when Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik invented the first commercially successful e-cigarette. Motivated by his father’s death from lung cancer due to smoking, Lik designed a device that vaporized a nicotine solution using a piezoelectric ultrasound element. This device, resembling a traditional cigarette, is now known as a “cig-a-like.” Lik’s invention revolutionized the industry, making vaping a viable alternative to smoking.

Since Lik’s e-cigarette hit the market, the vaping industry has seen continuous evolution. Manufacturers have been researching and developing new products, leading to a wide array of devices available today, including vape pens and pod vapes.

Improvements and Innovations

While Hon Lik and Herbert Gilbert are credited with the foundational designs of modern vapes, several other inventors have contributed to the advancements in vaping technology. For instance, Ted and Matt Rogers introduced ‘modding,’ which involves customizing the body of an e-cigarette. Umer and Tariq Sheikh further enhanced the traditional design by combining the cartridge and atomizer into a single unit known as a cartomizer.

Components of Modern Vaping Devices

Today’s vaping devices consist of several fundamental components, each playing a crucial role in the vaping experience:

  • Battery: Powers the device, with varying charges depending on the type.
  • Atomizer: Vaporizes the e-liquid.
  • Cartomizer: Combines the cartridge and atomizer into one unit.
  • Clearomizer: Allows users to see the e-liquid level and often provides more control over the vaping experience.
  • Cartridges and Tanks: Store the e-liquid.
  • Mouthpiece: The part of the device through which the user inhales the vapor.

Frequent Ask Questions

Ethan Parker
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