E-cigarettes: A History of the product that helped me quit

E-cigarettes seem to have exploded in popularity in the last couple of years and you could be forgiven for failing to believe that they have been around for any longer than that. However, e-cigarettes were actually first patented in 1963. Surprised? E-cigarettes have more of a history than you’d think; here are the bits you need to know.

I hadn’t heard of e-cigs until one of my friends at uni started using them, probably around 2009. After a few years of having one myself, I finally committed to using e-cigs and binning cigarettes in October 2013, after 10 years of smoking. I used e-cigs for a few months and stopped that after around 10 months.

E-cigarettes have more of a history than you’d think; here are the bits you need to know.

E-cigarettes:  A History of the product that helped me quit

1963 – Herbert A. Gilbert – USA

The earliest ancestor of e-cigarettes can be traced back to 1963, when American Herbert A. Gilbert patented “a smokeless non-tobacco cigarette.” Gilbert intended the e-cigarette to be a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes, much as it is today, but only managed to eke out a few primitive prototypes – none of which made it to the commercial stage. His designs did nevertheless include all the fundamental components of today’s e-cigarette – a battery, a reservoir for flavoured liquid, and a heating element.

2003 – Hon Lik – China

Whilst Gilbert’s early efforts have been recognised, e-cigarettes as we know them today were not developed until 2003. As a response to his father’s death from lung cancer in 2001, Hon Lik began working on alternatives to smoking. Initially, Lik focused on a high frequency, piezoelectric ultrasound-emitting element to vaporise a pressurised jet of liquid containing nicotine. Eventually he found that a battery powered heating element worked better and these efforts culminated with the patenting of the modern e-cigarette design in 2003, and its production in Beijing in 2004. Many versions of the e-cigarette eventually reached the European and US markets in 2006.

2007 – Umer and Tariq Sheikh – UK

Three years after its inception, the e-cigarette underwent its first major evolution. British entrepreneurs Umer and Tariq Sheikh invented the cartomiser, which incorporated the heating coil into the e-liquid reservoir. With their innovative adaptation, the brothers launched their brand Gamucci in 2008, and cartomisers were adopted by all major e-cigarette manufacturers.


It is important to note the significance of modding as a driving force for the progression of the e-cigarette industry. Because of a general sense of dissatisfaction with the industry, and recognition of areas for improvement, a modding culture thrived within e-cigarette-using circles. The circulation of e-cigarettes that had been both functionally and aesthetically improved via online forums led to increased demand and manufacture. Modding brought vapers the screwdriver – a replacement case to accommodate a longer-lasting battery.

2009 – Clearomiser

The development of the clearomiser in 2009, coupled with the production of the screwdriver on a commercial scale (with Joyetech’s eGo) gave e-cigarettes renewed adaptability. The clearomiser made tanks far easier to refill as well as allowing users to see the level of liquid left in the tank.

The state of e-cigarettes today

Big Tobacco companies initially dismissed e-cigarettes as a fad, but quickly changed their stance in 2012, and all of them have aggressively either started, or acquired, leading e-cigarette brands, cementing the status of vapour cigarettes, available at

1. noun: a female blogger that writes about her own experiences, observations and opinions. 2. verb: to act like a complete idiot or to do something stupid. e.g: She did a Corinne.


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