E-cigarettes and vaping have been around for a lot longer than some people may think, it’s only in the last 5-7 years it’s really ramped up in popularity. The number of adult e-cigarette users is now at the highest it’s been, with over 3 million adults in the UK actively using e-cigarettes.
As with anything electronic, the innovation and designs of vaping devices has evolved as the years have gone on, and gone are the days of the simple “Cigalike” vaping device. In this article, I’m going to look at the evolution of vaping devices and why innovation in design has been crucial and must continue to preserve the future of vaping, and help extend it’s longevity.
When did vaping begin?
When I started this article off with vaping being around a lot longer than people may think, I wasn’t lying. Way back in 1963, a man named Herbert Gilbert actually designed and filed a patent for the world’s first electronic cigarette, that’s nearly 60 years ago! Unfortunately, smoking cigarettes was widely accepted by nearly everyone and smoking was allowed in all places it’s banned today, from airports to classrooms (Teachers did smoke cigarettes whilst in classrooms apparently!) and unfortunately, the design and patent never took off because of this. An idea ahead of its time and a classic case of wrong place wrong time sadly.
A blueprint for Herbert Gilbert E-Cigarette from 1963
Fast forward 40 years where we meet Hon Lik. You may have heard his name before, he’s considered the “Godfather of Vaping” as it was all down to this man why vaping is what it is today. Hon Lik had watched his father’s health deteriorate over a prolonged period from lung cancer caused by smoking cigarettes, which sadly lead to his passing.
Hon was determined to create something which could still deliver nicotine but with a lot less harmful side effects like what smoking cigarettes comes with and what he created was an electronic cigarette that delivered nicotine to users, without the need to burn tobacco. His design took off almost instantly within the Chinese market, and more countries began to pay attention to what was going on overseas and the first electronic cigarette entered the UK market around 2005, with USA following suit 2 years later in 2007. And that is where it all began!
Cigalikes and evolving forward with designs
The e-cigarette design that Hon Lik made was the “Cigalike” design that is pictured above. These were simple designs that featured a small battery and a screw on filter that contained a small volume of e-liquid. The e-liquid this contained was tobacco flavoured and contained nicotine that wasn’t variable like what vape juice is today. These were popular because they looked just like a cigarette (hence why they were called cigalikes) and were quite small and discreet in design. The battery wasn’t very high powered and didn’t last very long before having to be thrown away and a new one bought. I guess you could say these were the first disposable vapes that came on to the market, just very different to the ones we know of today!
The first stage of evolution in design bought forward the vape pen design onto the market. The innovative feature of these devices was the fact they could filled repeatedly with e-liquid which was bought separately. The battery part of the device grew in size as well as power, giving people a longer lasting battery that could be recharged rather than being thrown away. And how it was filled was via a “Clearomiser” that was screwed on top of the battery and filled with e-liquid and these were disposable as they had a cotton wick that eventually wore down through the heating of the e-liquid and would then have to be replaced.
The introduction of these onto the market showed the first signs of innovation, and offering people more alternatives to quitting smoking. E-Liquid manufacturers were few and far between still at this point, but variable nicotine strength options were available to people so they wouldn’t have to use a high strength nicotine e-liquid if they were only a light smoker.
The Mod Squad brings more innovative technology to the vaping world
A few years passed and more companies were beginning to design and manufacture vaping devices after seeing the popularity gaining with them, and with more companies getting involved, the competition began to form to be the best and more innovative designs were coming out over the months.
The first mod design came about and completely revolutionised vaping. A device that featured an LCD screen showing the battery level so people wouldn’t have to guess or rely on lights showing up around their power button to signal when it was running out of charge, and it also displayed the power/wattage output and gave people the option to change this to a higher or lower power setting if they wanted to. These also featured a separate tank that screwed onto the mod, and had atomisers/coils within the tank that heated up the e-liquid to produce the vapour.
As I mentioned, these completely revolutionised vaping by offering features that had never been seen before on a device and people were becoming more curious to try and see what all the hype was about, and thus creating more adult users of e-cigarettes.
Further innovation sees more e-cigarette users but not quite for the right reasons
The vaping market ended up going full circle around 2017 with the introduction of disposable pod devices coming into the market. JUUL became the primary innovators of these, designing a sleek slimline battery that housed disposable pod cartridges that were prefilled with nicotine salt vape juice. Something like this had not been seen before, especially the nicotine salt e-liquid that they were using, and people were clamouring to get their hands on it.
JUUL came under heavy scrutiny for their marketing campaigns and approaching with it being deemed they were targeting younger audiences with their advertising, and this began the youth vaping “epidemic” which saw numbers of the number of adolescents vaping skyrocket to worrying levels. Whilst JUUL is still in existence today, the popularity of them has dwindled down quite significantly, but this is partially due to the reason of another introduction of innovative technology, and that is the Disposable vape pens that are flooding the market today. I’ve written an article regarding this subject which you can read by clicking the link
2021 saw the first introduction of Disposable vapes on to the vaping market, and this then lead to the progressive change of the vaping industry as it stood at the time. Companies like Elf Bar and Geek Bar began filtering products on to the market with design features never seen before. Sporting a bright vibrant colour design on the outside and housing inside a lithium-ion battery, 1.3ml of vape juice and a coil with cotton wick, people began realising how convenient these are and jumping on board with the idea. As well as the design and features, they also contained some crazy flavour concoctions of vape juice that had normally only been seen in large shortfill bottles designed for sub ohm vaping.
Disposables are probably at the height of popularity in today’s market, but as with JUUL, they’re unfortunately gaining popularity in the wrong age demographic. Whilst a high volume of adults are reported to be using them, a high volume of underage users are also using them which is causing problems worldwide. Countries worldwide are imposing vape juice flavour bans, upping the legal age limit to vape, and even banning vaping entirely in a bid to combat these being used by adolescents.
I hope this article has provided an insight to the history of vaping devices and how they have evolved over time to get to where they are today.
Innovation is absolutely crucial for anything to survive and continue to be popular in todays world and I believe vaping is going in the right direction. The popularity of current innovations like disposable vapes are causing some stress and unwanted attention to the vaping industry, but I believe this will begin to calm down if restrictions are bought in surrounding them. And also having been in the vaping game for over 7 years, I’ve seen the trends of certain things gain popularity for a while and then drop off again, so I imagine disposable vapes will suffer the same fate, and who knows, maybe we will see the return of cigalikes?!