Who is the inventor of the electronic cigarette? History of the birth of the e-cig

Who was the inventor of the electronic cigarette?

Modified on: 27/05/2024

How a chinese pharmacist came up with the idea to develop the first vaping device

It is pretty standard for vaping detractors to openly state that tobacco companies invented e-cigarettes to make young people enslaved people to nicotine and induce them to buy traditional cigarettes.

In reality, however, the Big Tobacco Companies had absolutely nothing to do with the birth of e-cigs; on the contrary, they ignored them or tried to have them banned for years (and still do today).

The truth is that e-cigarettes were invented by people who wanted to quit smoking and whose goal was to help smokers quit.

In this article, we will explain the true story of the birth of our beloved e-cig.

Animated light bulb trying to light up by plugging in an electric plug

The first steps toward an electronic cigarette: when the right idea comes at the wrong time

You read the title and know that the first electronic cigarette was developed in China, right? Wrong!

The first electronic vaping device was developed in the United States!

Don’t feel cheated: I will now explain everything in detail.

In 1963, American Herbert A. Gilbert applied for a patent for his ‘smokeless, tobacco-free cigarette’, and his application was granted in 1965. This invention worked with nicotine-free liquids but produced a flavoured vapour that was supposed to replace the smoking of cigarettes.

Gilbert made several prototypes, but this innovative device had no genuine commercial interest. On the other hand, there was still no need to find a less harmful alternative to traditional cigarettes. Moreover, the scientific community had just begun to highlight the harm caused by smoking, and the public was not yet aware of the harmfulness of tobacco.

No one was seriously concerned about the health risks.

Moreover, Gilbert’s invention had technical problems that could not be solved with 1960s technology: it was battery-powered, but the rechargeable ones then available were very expensive and bulky. Conventional ones were not a viable alternative, as they could not store enough energy to run the American inventor’s prototypes.

In short, the first electronic cigarette was too far ahead of its time! A classic example of the right idea coming at the wrong time.

That is why Gilbert’s futuristic invention was forgotten for 40 years.

Read also: Less harmful cigarettes: why e-cigarettes are less dangerous than traditional ones

Combating smoking with a less harmful alternative was the idea of the father of the e-cig.

In 2001, Hon Lik, a Chinese traditional medicine pharmacist working in an agricultural research laboratory, took up Gilbert’s idea.

The man was a heavy smoker and, having lost his father to cancer, decided it was time to break free from the cigarette habit. In the past, he had tried to overcome his addiction with nicotine patches, but, like many others, he found that these devices were not particularly effective.

Therefore, he began experimenting with a vaping system, testing various liquids to find one that could replicate the sensation of inhaling tobacco smoke. Eventually, he chose propylene glycol, a standard, non-toxic food additive still one of the main ingredients in e-liquids today, along with vegetable glycerine.

The first vaporizer prototype was rather bulky: the next step was to turn it into a practical device that anyone could use. Luckily for him, Lik had one significant advantage over Gilbert: in the early 2000s, cheap, high-capacity lithium batteries were now commonplace, used to power a host of devices such as mobile phones and laptops.

This detail made the difference between his invention and the American inventor: thanks to the technology available in 2001, the first electronic cigarette was born.

Language of the vapee and e-cigarette

The unstoppable evolution of the electronic cigarette

The credit for the invention of the electronic cigarette goes equally to Hon Lik and Herbert A. Gilbert. Still, this device has continued to evolve thanks to the contributions of many other minds.

For example, British vapers Umar and Tariq Sheikh improved the basic three-piece design (cartridge, atomizer and battery) by combining the cartridge and atomizer and creating the first ‘cartomizer’. The mod loved by most vapers today, on the other hand, came about thanks to Matt and Ted Rogers, also British, who developed the first prototype.

Since then, dozens of other improvements have been experimented with, sometimes relegated to the role of simple hobbyist devices. Other times, however, they have been successful and entered the mainstream.

In short, the wide choice that we have today between numerous electronic cigarettes suitable for so many different types of use, we owe to the choral effort of various individuals who, since the 1960s, have been ingenious in finding a less harmful alternative to the nasty blondes.

Read also: What’s in a cigarette? The main substances responsible for the harm of smoking

In conclusion

We have explained the history of the birth of the electronic cigarette.

As you have read, although the paternity of the first device is usually credited to Hon Lik, another inventor played a key role in the creation of the e-cig: the American Herbert Gilbert.

As I explained to you, behind the birth of the electronic cigarette was the desire to create an alternative to cigarettes that would reduce the harm caused by tobacco smoke. Now that you know this, the next time someone says that e-cigs were invented due to a Big Tobacco Company conspiracy, you can explain to them why they are wrong.

If you also use e-cigarettes, before I say goodbye, I invite you to visit our shop for vapers’ products: you will find plenty of quality items to enjoy your vaping sessions to the full!

We are waiting for you on Terpy.shop!