Vapor and Vaporizers - A Brief History
Herbal vaping, also known as herbal vaporization, is a relatively recent development in the long history of herbal medicine and the use of herbs for various purposes. It involves the heating of herbs or plant material to release their active compounds without burning them, which can be healthier alternative to smoking. The history of herbal vaping can be traced back to several key developments. Here is a brief history of vaporizing and some of the hardware involved:
- 1930 - Joseph Robinson patented the first vaporizing device in 1930. He wanted to make a clean, safe, convenient, and effective device to dispense medical aerosols. While e-cigarettes are very popular today, Robinson didn't have the marketing or mass production to make this idea come to life. In fact, there's no evidence that Robinson ever had this product manufactured
(Below - Robinson's patented vaporizer)
- 1964 – the attorney general publicly published the "smoking and health" report which provided evidence of the dangers of cigarettes.
1965 – Herbert A. Gilbert patents the modern day e-cigarette, he calls his invention the "smokeless" in an attempt to make a safer alternative to the cigarette – he personally went through a couple packs a day.
The invention would be tobacco free and filled with a flavored e-juice (no nicotine) and would even be marketed for weight loss as people could "smoke their favorite food". Unfortunately for Herbert, he never found a company willing to mass produce his invention. The patent expired in 1982; Gilbert passed away January 24th, 2023. While he never received any monetary credit, he took pride in his contributions to an invention that (in his mind) helped people stop smoking, “The only substantial thing I received was the satisfaction of saving millions of lives,”. Hon Kin accredits Gilbert for his contributions and advancements of this product.
- 1979 – the term "vape" is coined by computer entrepreneur Phil Ray and his physician Normal Jacobson who worked together to develop a "vaping device". They wanted to create an alternative nicotine delivery device that would vaporize nicotine instead of the normal combustion process of cigarettes. Due to FDA regulations and the recent report on the dangers of smoking, they were unsuccessful in getting their products on the shelves of major retailers.
- 1998 – The infamous "Volcano" is officially patented by a German company called Storz & Bickel, this dry herb vaporizer revolutionized the cannabis industry. Their patented balloon chamber provides a smoother, cleaner, and cooler hit that was unlike anything else commercially available at the time. Roughly five years later, this product is released to the US.
- 2003 - Hon Lik – inventor of the modern day e-cigarette. Lik was originally a pharmacist working for Ruyan Group (Holdings) Limited (Dragonite International) who wanted to find more convenient forms of consumption for Chinese based medicine. He started his vaping work in 1990s by trying to vaporize botanical oils, he hoped that this new device would help him quit smoking (the same habit that killed his father) but it turned him into a "dual" consumer – someone who smokes tobacco and e-cigarettes. Through his company, Lik filed patents in China, Europe, and the United States which were all eventually granted in 2003-2010. Since the patent process was expedited in China, the first electronic cigarette known as the Ryuan V8 was released in 2006, this allowed people to choose an e-liquid with or without nicotine. With over a billion smokers worldwide, the industry took off.
- 2006 – e-cigarettes make their debut in Europe and the United States, US customs accepts them as "nicotine inhaler and parts". Massive propaganda started flooding the media and even schools with misinformation – marketing teams started targeting the youth through ads, social media, concerts, and even scholarship programs. Popularity ran rampantly high, companies would market their devices as cigarette cessation devices without scientific proof that these devices actually helped people stop smoking. People were led to believe that these devices were a safe alternative to cigarettes, which we all know is simply not true.
- 2007 - Ploom is founded by Adam Bowen and James Monsees.
- 2007 – Cloud chasing starts on the west coast, these are vaping based events where people try to blow the largest or most creative cloud of vape to compete for a cash prize.
- 2008 – the World Health Organization makes a statement "Contrary to what some marketers of the electronic cigarette imply in their advertisements, the World Health Organization (WHO) does not consider it to be a legitimate therapy for smokers trying to quit."
- 2011 – The Netherlands and Argentina ban the sale and importation of e-cigarettes.
- 2013 – Dragonite International sells their patents to Imperial Tobacco in the UK for $75M.
- 2013 – Brandon Gallagher creates Vuber Technologies, a battery vaping company from Seattle.
- 2015- Ploom sells their company to Pax Labs, Pax developed various vaporizers for marijuana and also created the subcompany Juul for nicotine products.
- 2016 – FDA is approved to regulate e-cigarette devices in the same manner as tobacco companies. All e-cigarette companies were now required to get approval for their devices and marketing through the FDA.
- 2016 – CCell is founded, a company that brought ceramic atomizers to the vaping world, providing a more enjoyable experience as opposed to metal heating elements.
- 2018 – Vuber patents a new type of automizer made from a fritted quartz disk creating the cleanest vaping experience on the market.
- 2018 – "approximately 4.9 million middle (840,000; 7.2%) and high school students (4.04 million; 27.1%) in the United States (US) reported past 30-day use of any tobacco product". Parents Against Vaping e-cigarettes was founded by 3 New York moms. Their children came home from school and told their parents that a JUUL representative had snuck into the school to tell students that their products were completely safe and awaiting FDA approval any day.
- 2019 - EVALI crisis that affected more than 2k people and killed 80. This prompted funding for research, data emerged demonstrating the dangers and risks associated with e-cigarettes and the cause of the EVALI crisis. It was determined that the cause of the crisis stemmed from black-market pods containing vitamin-E acetate.
- 2019 – U.S House of Representatives launches an investigation into Juul for violating FDA regulations by claiming e-cigarettes help people stop smoking and were safer than cigarettes. Their marketing team and tactics were also under investigation for intentionally marketing their products to underage youth. At the time, Juul was valued at $15B but once the investigations started the company drastically lost value, by 2022 the company was valued at $450M.
- 2020 – Canada bans advertisement for e-cigarettes in any public space where the "youth" could potentially see it.
- 2021 – North Carolina and Arizona settle their lawsuits with JUUL for a total of $54.5M.
- 2022 – Washington state settles their JUUL lawsuit for $22.5M while 3 dozen other states settle for a combined $438M. California state settled their lawsuit by the end of the year, JUUL paid out somewhere between $1.2B-$1.7B ,a month later the city of San Fransisco sued JUUL for another $225M.
- 2023 – Six states and the district of Columbia settled with JUUL for $462M, while Minnesota got a payout of $60.5M.
The history of herbal vaping reflects its evolution, from early inventions to regulatory challenges and ongoing debates about safety and marketing practices.