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Who Invented The Vape?

Aaron Pua

Who Invented The Vape?

The Invention of the Vape

Many people don't realize vaping has been occurring in one way or another for several decades. The history of vaping starts with Joseph Robinson. He filed a patent in 1927 for an electronic cigarette. This patent was granted in 1930. Robinson did not try to commercialize his invention. There is no evidence that a prototype of his device was ever manufactured, but it did influence future vapes. 

Herbert A. Gilbert - Inventor of the Vape Pen

He is usually given credit for creating the first device similar to a modern e-cigarette. Gilbert filed a patent for his invention in 1963 and was granted a patent in 1965. It produced a flavored vapor intended to replace tobacco smoke and was a nicotine-free device. He successfully created a prototype of his invention. Gilbert also failed to commercialize his idea. This was a time when physicians were in the initial stages of warning about the health hazards associated with smoking. It is estimated that over half of American men smoked at this time as well as 44 percent of American women. There was little or no interest during this time for a safe alternative to smoking tobacco. 

Vaporizer Batteries 

The patent design of Herbert A. Gilbert had some significant technical issues. His prototype was powered by old battery technology. During the 1960s, battery technology was not as advanced as it is right now. Rechargeable batteries were heavy as well as expensive. Batteries used for commercial purposes were expensive and were limited in their ability to store energy. Gilbert's electronic device was ahead of its time in terms of technology and socially. Unfortunately, after being granted the patent, the concept of the e-cigarette was forgotten for more than 30 years. 

First Commercialized E-Cigarette 

Phil Ray was a computer pioneer. He worked with a Norman Jacobson who was a physician. Together they created the first commercialized type of e-cigarette in 1979. They were the ones who began formal research on the topic of nicotine delivery. Their product wasn't actually electronic. It worked by evaporation of nicotine. Their vape invention did reach major retailers. The vapes they made failed to attract customers. Jacobson and Ray are credited with adding the term vape to the English language. 

Nicotine Inhaler Devices 

During the 1990s, there were many patents filed for nicotine inhaler devices. This was done by individual inventors as well as tobacco companies. Some of these devices depended on evaporation and other relied on physical propulsion. Some were similar to modern e-cigarettes. In 1998, there was a major U.S. tobacco company that asked the FDA to bring a type of e-cigarette to the market. The FDA denied this request. 

Modern E-Cigarette 

Hon Lik was a Chinese traditional medicine practitioner and pharmacist. He worked at an agricultural research lab. Hon was a heavy smoker. His father had died of lung cancer. Hon felt it was time he quit smoking. He tried nicotine patches and they didn't work. Hon decided to try and develop a vaporization system. He began testing many different methods. 


Hon tested many types of liquids to imitate the feeling of inhaling tobacco smoke. He eventually used the common food additive known as propylene glycol. It provided a satisfying vapor and was non-toxic. This additive and vegetable glycerine remain ingredients of e-liquids. 

Vape Device Console 

Hon's next step was to create a vape device easily used by people. He had a huge advantage over Herbert A. Gilbert; Hon had access to a high-capacity battery that was affordable. The most recent version of lithium batteries was used in iPods, laptops, as well as iPhones, were able to store sufficient levels of energy to run e-cigarettes and vape pens for many hours. 

Ultrasonic Emitter 

Hon's initial design involved a vaporizer with a pressurized liquid being turned into a mist of fine droplets. It was done using high-frequency vibrations. In 2003, Hon Lik was able to patent his design. The first commercial version of his product was made available in 2004. It did not utilize an ultrasound system. The initial version used a heating coil known as an atomizer. It was a principle similar to Gilbert's 1960's design. All subsequent vaping system like the dry herb vaporizer utilizes this system. 

Safe Alternative To Smoking 

A study was conducted by Health New Zealand in October 2008. The study concluded toxicants and carcinogens associated with vaping are present in significantly lower levels than tobacco. This study resulted in the e-cigarette being rated much less dangerous to a person's health than smoking tobacco. Vaping was determined to be a safe alternative to smoking. 

Other Inventions 

Herbert A. Gilbert and Hon Lik are both credited for the initial design of the modern device used for vaping. There have been many other vaporizer inventions such as the dry herb vaporizer that is now part of the products people purchase today. The basic three-piece design was improved by Tariq and Umer Sheikh. They combined the atomizer and cartridge into a device known as a cartomizer. 

First Vape Mod 

Any e-cigarette that does not have the appearance of a traditional cigarette is considered a mod. A modded flashlight was used as the initial e-cigarette. The first mod was developed by Ted and Matt Rogers from Britain. It is used in many e-cigarettes today. Flashlights were just a hollow tube to hold batteries and a switch. They also had a switch and threading where a light bulb could be screwed into it. 

E-Cig and Vape Subculture 

There is currently a subculture of individuals around the world who use e-cigarettes and consider themselves to be vapers. These are people who believe e-cigarettes are safer than smoking tobacco products. Others see vaping as a hobby. It has been estimated that in the United States approximately 13 percent of kids in 8th grade use e-cigarettes. The number is 24 percent for those in 10 grade and for students in 12th grade the number is 28 percent. These numbers are based on research paid for by the National Institutes of Health. 

Since the beginning of the electronic cigarette, many improvements have been added to the initial vape invention design. All the advancements in design have been done without any help from the tobacco industry. The future looks positive for e-cigarettes and vape pens as acceptance and improvements to them continue to occur.

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