History of Electronic Cigarettes

The first evidence of electronic cigarettes being proposed was back in the 1960s, when Herbert A. Gill received a US patent for a device that he called a “smokeless cigarette” – even then, he postulated that it could be a harmless substitute for regular tobacco cigarettes.

But most believe that a man named Hon Lik, a druggist, actually invented the c-cigarette in China, after his father died from lung cancer after being a heavy smoker. Lik’s company, Golden Dragon, is said to have produced the first e-cig in 2003. Several years later, the company changed its name to “Ruyan” (Chinese for the word “smoke”) and began to export electronic cigarettes.

It was 2006 when e-cigarettes hit the market in the US and Europe. They didn’t really catch on the way they have now, but even so there were a number of bans and controversies surrounding them around the world. Turkey became the first country to actually ban the import and sale of e-cigarettes, in 2008. And anti-smoking groups started to pile on, claiming that the nicotine in ecigs made them no safer than regular cigarettes. It was also in 2008 that the World Health Organization issued a statement saying that it did not believe electronic cigarettes safe. They also forced companies to remove WHO labels that indicated approval of the product.

The legal wars heated up in 2009, with the FDA issuing releases that claimed e-cigs were not only unsafe but posed health risks to people using them. Manufacturers and distributors fought back, forming their own association to battle proposed regulations and bans. A number of other countries, including Canada, banned the devices and the legal battles raged. But things eased a bit in 2011, at least in the US, when the FDA said it would regulate ecigs under laws that existed for the regulation of tobacco cigarettes, and not as drug delivery devices. That took some of the pressure off of the industry. States have proposed their own attempts to regulate ecigs, but for the most part, those laws have fallen short of passage with the exception of laws to prevent the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

Now, sales of electronic cigarettes are growing faster than ever, particularly in the US and Western Europe, as companies become better at marketing and developing better products; the development of two-piece e-cigs, which were easier for the end user, was a major contribution to the accelerated growth of the industry. The legal fights, however, show no sign of ending any time soon.