The History of E-cigarettes

Figure 1.
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The first smokeless, non-tobacco cigarette device was patented by Herbert A. Gilbert from Beaver Falls, PA in 1967. This non-tobacco cigarette was thought to be a safe and harmless method of smoking by replacing burning tobacco and paper with heated, moist, flavored air.1

In 2003, a Chinese pharmacist, Hon Lik, was credited with the first generation e-cigarette that used a piezoelectric element to vaporize the liquid containing nicotine diluted in a propylene glycol solution.36

Hon Lik invented the e-cigarette as a safer and cleaner way to inhale nicotine as a tobacco cessation resource, after his father passed away from lung cancer.2

By 2004, Hon Lik introduced e-cigarettes to the Chinese market through his employer, the Golden Dragon Holdings. Later the company changed its name to Ruyan meaning “almost like smoke” to resemble its product.4

After the success of e-cigarette sales in Asia, products were sold through the internet in large quantities. E-cigarettes gained popularity in many different countries. In 2007, e-cigarettes were introduced to the American market.5 The major tobacco companies that have purchased or developed e-cigarette products include: Lorillard acquired Blu, the leading e-cigarette brand in the United States. Altria acquired GreenSmoke and has its own Mark Ten brand, and Reynolds created its own brand Vuse. Additionally, British American Tobacco sells Vype, Imperial Tobacco sells Ruyan, and Swisher sells E-Swisher. Logic and NJOY are also leading e-cigarette companies. In the United States, e-cigarette sales have grown at an annual rate of 115 percent in the 2009-2012 period. It is estimated that the global e-cigarette market could increase to $10 billion by 2017.41 In August 2013, a leading tobacco analyst predicted that booming e-cigarette sales in the U.S. will more than double this year, hitting $1.7 billion.42