That the electronic cigarette was invented by Hon Lik, a Chinese pharmacist, is well known. What’s less well-known, however, is that there was a precursor to the electronic cigarette that we’re familiar with today, patented in 1963, forty four years before the company Hon Lik, Ruyan – the name translates to ‘like smoke’ in Mandarin – (formerly Golden Dragon Holdings), worked for was granted an international patent.
In 1963, Herbert Gilbert patented what was described as ‘a smokeless non-tobacco cigarette’ that replaced tobacco and paper, the traditional cigarette materials, with ‘heated, moist, flavoured air’. This is considered by many to be the first electronic cigarette despite the many differences between it and modern electronic cigarettes.
Although deemed suitable for commercialisation, all attempts to commercialise Gilbert’s invention failed and it fell into obscurity. Whether Hon Lik drew inspiration from Gilbert’s patent – it’s fairly difficult to access information about Gilbert’s electronic cigarette – has never been publicised.
Electronic Cigarette Usage in Modern Society
Modern society has taken to electronic cigarettes in a big way, as is highlighted by the findings of a 2013 survey by YouGov for the anti-tobacco charity Ash, which found that in the UK electronic cigarette usage had increased three-fold over the previous year to 2.1 million users.
Whilst there are relevant concerns electronic cigarette usage, it’s important to note that the increased numbers of ‘vapers’ – electronic cigarette users – isn’t attributable to new users, but rather smokers trying to quit (see below).
Says Deborah Arnott, the chief executive of Ash, “The dramatic rise in the use of electronic cigarettes over the past four years suggests that smokers are increasingly turning to these devices to help them cut down or quit smoking. Significantly, usage among non-smokers remains negligible.”
Big Business But Not as Big as Tobacco … Yet
Electronic cigarettes are big business these days despite their illegal status in many countries and Forbes Magazine estimates that manufacturers are earning anywhere from $250 to $500 million annually.
Whilst electronic cigarette sales are on the rise, they’ve still a long way to go before they come close to the sales of tobacco cigarettes – the US tobacco market is worth $100 billion in comparison.
Nonetheless, Goldman Sachs sees significant potential in the electronic cigarette market and expects to see, within a few years, global sales of e-cigarettes hitting $10 billion annually.
Are They No Longer a Cessation Aid?
Many people, including members of governments and health organisations, no longer see electronic cigarettes as cessation aids because they contain nicotine, an addictive and harmful substance.
This isn’t, however, how many people view electronic cigarettes, e-cigs as they’re commonly known, for like nicotine gum and patches, they’ve been used by many people, now ex-smokers, as cessation aids with great success.
Whilst it can’t be denied that nicotine isn’t harmful to human health, when one takes into account that there are over 7000 chemicals contained in tobacco smoke it also can’t be denied that electronic cigarettes are a much healthier alternative as a means of delivering nicotine into the bloodstream, nor can it be denied that making the switch to e-cigs hasn’t served as a useful stepping stone in helping smokers knock the habit on the head once and for all.
Opinions will continue to be divided over electronic cigarettes, with some advocating them as a healthier alternative to cigarettes and others wanting them outlawed; however, the numbers seem to be stacked in favour of electronic cigarettes because, as the director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, Anna Gilmore, says, “e-cigarettes are certain to be way less harmful than cigarettes. Common sense would dictate that.”
Loren Montenegro is writing in a freelance basis for Vaper Empire, a company that sells PREMIUM Electronic Cigarette (E Cig) and E Liquid Products at Great Prices.