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The History of Disposable Vapes

May 21, 2023

Disposable vapes seem like 21st-century inventions with sleek designs and features like fast charging. But these devices have a longer history than most people realize. If you’ve ever wondered where it all began, you’re in the right place. Deep dive into the beginnings of vapes and how that led to where we are today. 

When Were Disposable Vapes Invented?

The history of vapes starts nearly 100 years ago — back in 1927! Searching for an alternative to traditional cigarettes is nothing new, and advancements in vaping have brought us to where we are today, where you can enjoy premium and bold flavours like those you'll find in our store

Variety, convenience, and flavour make vapes popular today — but where did it all begin? 

Below, we'll cover the history that led to the invention of an electronic cigarette by Hon Lik in 2004, which is considered one of the earliest disposable vapes!

Historical Timeline of Disposable Vapes

1927: The First Document Reference to an Electronic Cigarette

In 1927, a man named Joseph Robinson filed a patent for an electronic vaporizer. Robinson was an American inventor, and he designed a device called a “butane ignition vaporizer.” 

The patent illustrated that the device would not be far off in resemblance to the vapes many people use today in terms of components and appearance. 

Robinson stated that the unit would be used for medicinal compounds. He aimed for a product that would allow users to inhale the vapours without getting burned. You could imagine how this would help reduce accidents resulting from cigarette smoking, such as fires or burns. 

His patent was granted in 1930. However, the product was never commercialized, and whether or not a prototype was ever manufactured is unclear. While Robinson's creation was never commercially available, it does shine a light on the fact the idea for an alternative to cigarette smoking has existed for nearly 100 years. 

1963: First Device Created

After that first patent, another 40 years passed before Herbert A. Gilbert pursued his own cigarette alternative. Born in Beaver Falls, PA, Gilbert graduated from college with a bachelor's in Business. He was eager to find a logical solution to the problem of tobacco smoke. 

Gilbert's model didn't use combustion and resembles the technology employed by today's vapes. 

He adapted available technology in 1963 and patented his creation in 1965. This device didn't contain nicotine and instead emitted flavoured vapour. Instead, he aimed to create a “smokeless” alternative to tobacco smoke. 

He also promoted the device for those seeking to lose weight, with flavours including cinnamon, mint, and rum. 

In creating prototypes, Gilbert discovered the difficulties posed by the batteries of the day. Batteries tended to be either limited and disposable or rechargeable but weighty, large, and costly. 

Gilbert attributed the product's failure to companies preferring to commercialize it after the patent's expiration instead of licensing it. However, it is unclear if the device, as it was then, had the potential for commercial success.

1979: First Commercialized Product

In 1979, Phil Ray and Normal Jacobson worked together to create a device that utilized the evaporation of nicotine. Their endeavours would mark the first known research regarding nicotine delivery. 

The product even reached major retailers but ultimately failed. The technology was not a promising way to deliver nicotine. However, thanks to these inventors, the verb "vape" was added to the language. 

1990s: Multiple Patents Filed

In the 1990s, multiple patents were filed for devices to inhale nicotine. Some used physical propulsion or evaporation, but some were not too different from the e-cigarettes we are familiar with today. 

One big tobacco company in the United States requested the FDA to allow an e-cigarette device to come to the market around 1998. The FDA did not approve the request. 

2003: First Successful Commercial Product

A victory for vaping finally came about in 2003. Hon Lik created the first electronic cigarette in Beijing, China, to great commercial success. 

Hon Lik's father passed away from lung cancer. Afterwards, Hon Lik searched for a smoking alternative, ultimately leading to his product. One essential aspect of vapes' success was finding a liquid to simulate the feeling of tobacco smoke inhalation. This led to him using propylene glycol — something still used today! 

In addition, unlike Gilbert in the 1960s, Hon Lik had access to batteries with longer runtimes and a lower price tag.

The product he ultimately developed used a lithium battery and a liquid containing nicotine and propylene glycol. This would become the basis for today's vaping technology

When Did Vaping Become Popular? 

In the later 2000s, vaping entered the Canadian, European and U.S. markets. Different inventors then attempted to create a slimmer feel and look. New adaptations continued to be applied. This included the development of vape pens. 

By 2011, there were an estimated 7 million vapers worldwide. Come 2018, that number skyrocketed to around 41 million

Vaping remains extremely popular today, and many types of vapes are available on the market. Different options and flavours are everywhere, allowing vapers plenty of opportunity to find the device that best meets their needs. 

Final Thoughts

Disposable vapes took a long time to get off the ground, but now that they're here, they are undoubtedly popular. There are many reasons why people today choose disposable vapes: they are convenient, tasty, and offer a lot in the way of variety. 

If you’re a vaper, you can appreciate how many steps went into these devices becoming what they are today. After a few false starts by other inventors, Hon Lik finally created the first commercially successful product. And now look where we are, with many options available to vapers.

The modern vape has been nearly 100 years in the making, but vapers now have no shortage of options. If you want a disposable vape that offers convenience, browse WAKA Vape. We have flavours to suit every vape user's needs.

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