Evolution and realignment? The short history of vaping

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Since its humble beginnings, vaping has concerned itself with aiding smokers trying to kick their tobacco habit to live healthier lives. That said, an evolution of technology has seen the industry diversify and satisfy the different kinds of vaper out there – yet, now it seems like there could be something of a realignment to vaping’s ‘true’ purpose. So, what’s going on…?

The origins of the e-cig

Arguably the first device that could be considered an e-cigarette was created by Herbert Gilbert in 1965, who envisaged it as a ‘smokeless non-tobacco cigarette’ that would mimic the act of smoking a cigarette, but obviously without breathing in all the hazardous carcinogens present in tobacco smoke. Gilbert, however, failed to bring his creation to market and make any sort of commercial success out of it. In which case, following this false start, it took the world another 40 years (near enough) to be graced by another e-cigarette – and this time, it was the genuine article.

In 2003, Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik unleashed the first proper e-cig on an unsuspecting planet, following this father dying of lung cancer and Dr Lik deciding to try and come up with a healthier alternative to the traditional tobacco-packed cigarette. Indeed, there’s no doubting which market he was aiming his new device at and, thus, what its intention was – the device was named ‘Ruyan’, which translates in English as ‘like smoke’.

The rise of flavours and mods

It took a few years for the emergence of Lik’s invention to evolve into an industry but this had begun in earnest by the of the last decade when (fairly primitive) e-cigs were becoming common sights on both sides of the Atlantic and in various countries in Continental Europe. Plenty of buzz was being generated in the smoking community about how vaping e-cigs bought from a vape shop could genuinely serve as not just a healthier alternative to smoking a conventional cigarette, but a far more reliable way to quit smoking altogether than any seen before. Those who’d been stuck with a smoking habit of years and years gave vaping a try and found it something of a revelation; something, the first thing, that actually helped them to quit.

The vaping industry continued to grow and grow. And this ensured that, over the following years, it broadened its scope and its offerings and quickly became focused on a plethora of flavour options. Delicious e-juices offering up a huge variety of different tastes delighted e-cig users (and baffled newbies!) and turned more and more on to the vaping revolution. Indeed, this direction for the industry inevitably saw the emergence of premium e-liquid for those who’d quickly become connoisseurs of taste and revelled in only the best possible flavours – and, in some cases, mixing and steeping their own to achieve their own perfect, personalised vaping experience.

Moreover, a technological shake-up was on the way and, quickly, it arrived in the flooding of vape mods across the global market. As soon as they emerged, box mods became a breakout hit; modification (i.e. personalisation)-enabling e-cig devices that can carry more batteries and deliver more power, flexibility and e-juice capacity via their smart, programmable settings and sub-ohm coils than devices that preceded them (cig-alike devices and vape pens). And they remain a big hit to this day, for obvious reasons.

In fact, thanks to the combination of box mods and high-VG e liquid flavours, a sub-culture within the wider vaping community came into being – ‘cloud chasers’, those who meet up and compete to perform impressive vape tricks and generate the biggest plumes of vapour as possible. A far cry, indeed, from using e-cigs as a means to quit smoking.

The focus reverses?

But now, in the present, something seems to be changing – albeit subtly. There may be reason to believe that the focus of e-cig use is shifting back again to enabling smokers to quit the ciggies and liberate themselves from their nasty tobacco habit. That’s to say, while heavy box mods, premium e-juices and cloud chasing and the rest of it remains highly popular with many in the vaping community, the emergence and growing popularity of what are referred to as pod mods (lighter and yet flexible takes on the box mod concept) embrace the notion of the vaper being someone who’s looking to quit smoking or remain quit.

Unlike cig-alikes, pod mods look nothing like conventional cigarettes, but owing to the fact they’re lightweight, relatively small and can be furnished with an e-liquid bottle purchased from a vape store that simply snaps into place and its contents vaped straightaway, they offer a simplicity and ease of vaping with none of the complex, hobby-preferring customisation required of box mods; ideal then for novice vapers who have turned to the activity as a means to escape tobacco. They also deliver decent throat hits – another boon for smokers-turned-would-be vapers.

The reality, though, is nobody knows which direction the vaping market and its community and culture will decisively take next – who knows, maybe it won’t? Maybe it’ll remain like it is, with sub-cultures springing up, thus, categorising vapers further to make up a diverse whole. But whatever happens, it’ll be interesting to watch – and there can be no doubt; vaping’s here to stay!

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