Vaping: Past, Present and Future

Innovation | 24 August 2017
Keeley L Walkerby Keeley L Walker

The phenomenon of vaping has swept the globe with breath-taking speed. And the industry’s development shows no signs of slowing down. But when did it start, where it is now and what does the future hold?

Past: BV (Before Vaping)

It would be wrong to consider vaping without establishing the context into which it was introduced.

So, let’s go back in time. Way back to where it all began.

Tobacco has been around for 1000s of years. It is believed to have been cultivated for human consumption in what is now South America, particularly in the modern nations we now know as Peru and Ecuador.

Smoking was first made possible when cured tobacco leaves were rolled into cigars – this was after the dried crop had been used for snuffing for centuries.

But it was not until the late 1500’s that tobacco reached England, by which point it was a thriving commodity. It soon became a craze, which spread like wildfire throughout the population.

Sir Walter Raleigh, whose name would be connected to tobacco for centuries to come, was one of the individuals who commissioned settlers to establish colonies in Virginia, where the leaf was grown. And so we see tobacco fast becoming recognised as a cash crop as well as a smoking material.

But the cigarette had not yet been imagined.

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As tobacco grew in popularity as a pastime or habit, people started to experiment with methods to enjoy the flavour and effects of the plant. For several centuries the crop was enjoyed through the medium of pipes (of stone or clay) or wrapping the plant in its own leaves.

Soon, as is so often the case, smoking became a matter of class when travellers brought cigarettes home from abroad. Those who travelled to other countries reported that this method of smoking tobacco was the reserve of those in the higher echelons of society, which, naturally, the British upper classes wanted to emulate.

By the late 1800’s cigarettes began to be mass-produced, branded and subsequently sold in their millions. The manufacturing of cigarettes had become a true and thriving industry.

Fast forward to the 1960’s and 70’s. Many are of the opinion that this is when scientific evidence against smoking cigarettes began to develop. This may be true to a certain extent although, studies suggest, tobacco companies were aware that smoking could pose a serious health risk as early as the 1950’s.

Sure, the potential for manufacturing “less hazardous” cigarettes was explored (remember Marlboro Lights which we can now only be referenced as Marlboro Golds). However, “light” or not, the evidence regarding the health risks associated with cigarettes was mounting.

Nowadays the habit cannot be advertised on television and the majority of a cigarette pack must be covered in health warnings.

Fortunately, a big change in the way we enjoy nicotine, was waiting in the wings.

Present: Early Vaping

The first electronic cigarettes were just that. Cylindrical white tubes which looked like a cigarette but offered heated vapour instead of combusting tobacco.

The first e-cig was created in the early 1960s.

A patent was applied for and approved in 1963 when Herbert Gilbert invented a non-tobacco cigarette. However, he did not go through with manufacturing the device and sadly, it would be another 40 years before the idea had any impact.

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The term “vaping” has been credited to Dr Norman Jacobson, who created the Favor cigarette in 1979, but still the technology was not recognised in popular culture.

Enter Hon Lik, the Chinese pharmacist credited with vaping as we know it today. Again, his first e cigs resembled a traditional cigarette – white with a brown tip where the filter would be. In 2003 he also created an electronic cigar version and what we now imaginatively call a vape pen (because it looks like a pen and it produces vapour).

It took a few more years for the invention to spread to the UK and US. Many reports say vaping did not make its mark on the western world until 2007. (I wonder if it is coincidental that this was the year the smoking ban was introduced to the UK.)

By 2010 there were significant modifications to the technology of e-cigarettes with a plethora of devices hitting the market promising to deliver smoke-free nicotine in the most satisfying way.

But it was as recently as 2014 that the concept of vaping was more formally acknowledged as dictionary’s began to list the term with it’s definition.

Vape: (verb) to inhale and exhale the vapour produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device

Popularity and profitability have exploded over the last few years, with a variety of companies successfully producing their own devices, modifications or Mods and liquids. These liquids are available in an vast array of flavours and differ in nicotine strength. E-juice with zero nicotine has also become popular for those who have no history of smoking but enjoy vaping as a pastime.

But with innovative designers and craftsmen hard at work to create the most satisfactory tobacco-free experience, it is safe to say, the best is yet to come.

Future:  AYR

Some industry watchers believe that the e-cig revenue will surpass that of traditional tobacco companies in the next ten years. And with vaping devices becoming increasingly high tech, this may well prove true.

Many enthusiastic vapers are satisfied by the quality of the experience but are uncomfortable with the ungainly Mods and batteries that have come to dominate the space. Therefore, signs seem to suggest that future e-cigs will need to revert to a more traditional appearance while upholding the advanced standard of the satisfaction from vaping.

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It was this that the award-winning designers behind AYR first acknowledged when they set out to craft a device that would represent the future of the industry. But they went one step further recognising that it is not just the appearance of traditional cigarettes that has been lost amid the plumes of high-functioning Mods but the ritual.

Extensive market research has proven that smokers find the transition from smoking to vaping cumbersome due to the abundance of moving parts involved in mastering a vaporiser. Complaints of leaks, spills and fiddly bits were taken into account and so AYR strips back the vaping experience to it’s core intention – a harm reduced alternative to smoking. It has no buttons, requires no assembly or disassembly and its case fits in the palm of your hand. Soft lights indicate how much you have vaped so for smokers there is a clear start and end to each session.

AYR is more than a product, it is a Movement. It pushes the boundaries of what was hitherto thought possible, capturing the moments that delight smokers while respecting the lifestyle they enjoy.

We have high hopes for the good AYR will do.

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