Electronic cigarettes become really popular only in recent years all over the world, a industry is estimated over $3.5 billion worth in US. Word "Vape" — a verb suddenly so mainstream that the Oxford English Dictionary named it 2014’s Word of the Year. But the story of his invention rises in the early 60’s. Who knows who the very first inventor was? Let’s discover the faces and the history facts behind this innovative product.
Herbert A. Gilbert
In 1963, Herbert A. Gilbert filed a patent for a device that he described as “a smokeless non-tobacco cigarette” that involved “replacing burning tobacco and paper with heated, moist, flavored air.” In 1965, his patent was approved.
In December 1965, Gilbert’s smokeless non-tobacco cigarette invention was mentioned in Popular Mechanics.
In 1967, Gilbert was approached by several companies who were interested in manufacturing his smokeless non-tobacco cigarettes. But a prototype was never made. As normalized as smoking tobacco cigarettes was back then, maybe people just weren’t ready for it yet.
Gilbert’s vision of a smokeless non-tobacco cigarette was never commercialized, and the idea went to the wayside. People soon forgot all about it.
In 2001, Stephane Vlachos designed the first functional prototype of the electronic cigarette, which uses electronic resistance to heat a mixture of glycol derivatives and nicotine in a heating chamber to produce vapor. One of his prototypes was exposed at the International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva in 2002.
Vlachos never patented his idea, supposedly out of respect to Gilbert.That may have been an unwise decision on his part. He had planned to manufacture the first version of his electronic cigarette in 2004 under the brand Cig-Elec, but changed his mind when a similar product emerged in China.
Vlachos claims that his idea was stolen in 2003 by a Chinese girl and her uncle. Maybe he should have gotten that patent after all.
There is surprisingly a lack of information pertaining to Vlachos and his involvement with electronic cigarettes. As I researched this topic, I was only able to find one source of information about Vlachos and his idea. Unfortunately for Vlachos, the lack of records makes it hard to verify the accuracy of his story.
Hon Lik, a Chinese pharmacist, is widely credited with the invention of the first generation electronic cigarette. Lik used to be a very heavy smoker but when his father died from lung cancer, Lik was determined to find an effective method to quit smoking, so he worked as a medical researcher to try to find a solution. He patented the first nicotine based electronic cigarette in 2003 and the following year, Hon Lik was the first person to manufacture and sell them, first in the Chinese market and then internationally. By 2004, Lik’s electronic cigarettes were available in the Chinese market. His company changed its name from Golden Dragon Holdings to Ruyan (it means “resembling smoking.”) In 2005, Ruyan started exporting its products before receiving its first international patent in 2007.