History of Vaping - How Long Has Vaping Been Around?

By Eina Panayotova

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Vaping may have only reached the marketplace in the past 20 years, but the idea of an electronic cigarette is older than people may think. Here, we’ll take a closer look at the history of vaping and its origins.

When Did Vaping Start?

The first patent for an electronic cigarette was granted in 1930 by Joseph Robinson.[1] Despite this, no device was ever made commercially available, and there’s no evidence that Robinson took his invention to prototype stage. Vaping as we know it did not enter the mainstream European market until around 2006. Even then, this generation of devices were mostly cigalikes, made with limited battery power and without the vast array of devices and juices we have today. It wasn’t until after several generations of technological advancement that the vapes we know in modern times came to be.

How Did Vaping Start?

Vaping – from the earliest stages of innovation– has continually been used as an alternative to smoking. In 1963, Herbert A. Gilbert developed a vaping device that was intended to be used as an alternative to cigarettes, although this was never commercialised.[2] In the 1980s, another alternative to smoking was created. While it wasn’t an electronic device, the nicotine inhalation device ideated by Phil Ray, helped to push the idea of combustion-free nicotine.[3]

Modern day vaping devices can trace their lineage back to Hon Lik, a pharmacist who was the first to successfully commercialise an electronic cigarette.[4] Patents of Lik’s inventions spawned the wide range of vapes that are available today.

There are a few key dates on the history of vaping timeline, including:


The first electronic cigarette patent is registered


Herbert A Gilbert patents another electronic cigarette device, but it never comes to market.


Phil Ray conducts preliminary research into a nicotine delivery device.


Hon Lik develops the modern vape.


The first modern vape is brought to market.


Vaping is introduced to Europe.


Vapes enter the US market.

History of Heated Tobacco Alongside Vaping

The early vaping devices may have laid the groundwork for heated tobacco products, which serve as smoke-free alternatives for people who cannot or do not want to stop tobacco/nicotine use altogether.

Like vaping devices and e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products had a similarly convoluted beginning when it came to getting a mainstream product to market. The first heated tobacco product was created in 1988 by R. J. Reynolds. Unlike both modern heated tobacco and vapes, this device still required a form of combustion.

Many early heated tobacco products were rejected by smokers due to lack of satisfaction in taste and smell. An increasing level of research and development into heat-not-burn technology has allowed heated tobacco products to become a more established alternative to smoking.

One of these heated tobacco products is IQOS. Unlike a vape product, which uses liquid, IQOS is an electronic device that heats real tobacco for a satisfying taste experience. Indeed studies showed that the satisfaction for those who moved away from cigarettes altogether, IQOS is comparable to those who continued to smoke cigarettes*. There are more than 20.1 million** IQOS users globally, of which 14.7m*** have moved away from cigarettes. Learn more about IQOS.

*Source: 3 month clinical studies conducted in US and Japan with 160 adult smokers each under real conditions (ambulatory)

>**Source: PMI Financials or estimates, IQOS user panels and PMI Market Research. Status as of July 2021. IQOS users for whom HeatSticks represent at least 5% of their daily tobacco consumption over the past 7 days.

***IQOS users who have completely quit cigarettes and for whom PMI HeatSticks represent at least 70% of their past 7-day heated tobacco consumption.

[1] https://casaa.org/education/vaping/historical-timeline-of-electronic-cigarettes./


[3] https://www.techwalls.com/the-many-fathers-of-vaping/


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