Electronic Cigarettes: A History Lesson

The First E-Cigarette

The electronic cigarette was first patented by Herbert A. Gilbert. His device, much like electronic cigarettes today, heated a nicotine solution allowing users to inhale its steam. He was very knowledgeable of the dangers of smoking tobacco, which lead him to invent this device. Unfortunately his e-cigarette did not takeoff as he had hoped. At the time, regular cigarettes were very common, accepted by society, and even considered fashionable and trendy. Smoking was not considered dangerous to anyone’s health and thus, smoking was allowed almost everywhere: restaurants, airplanes, and classrooms. A market for a healthier cigarette alternative had not been established yet.

The Popularization of E-Cigarettes

In 2003 electronic cigarettes became popularized by Chinese pharmacist, Hon Lik. After his father died of lung cancer, Hon Lik was determined to find a healthier method of nicotine inhalation. He created what is known as the first generation electronic cigarette, which emits a piezoelectric ultrasound that vaporizes a liquid that contains diluted nicotine. This results in a smokeless vapor that can be inhaled. Hon Lik worked with the Ruyan Group to produce his e-cigarettes and they became an international phenomenon by 2007. Since the major success of Hon Lik’s e-cigarette, there have been many different redesigns of the electronic cigarettes but none have been as ground breaking.

Studies and Controversies

There has been research conducted that shows electronic cigarettes are a better alternative to conventional cigarettes. The Office on Smoking and Health for the U.S federal agency Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that there is enough evidence that show electronic cigarettes are less harmful than smoking regular cigarettes. In 2008, a study done by Health in New Zealand which was funded by Ruyan showed that e-cigarettes were 100-1000 times less likely to be harmful to a person’s health than regular cigarettes.

However there are controversies about e-cigarettes that still linger due to its lack of regulation. Office on Smoking and Health for the U.S. federal agency Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have expressed concerns because many e-liquid, which is the basic ingredient of e-cig contain nicotine but do not have a CDC issued warning on them. Other concerns about electronic cigarettes are marketing and lack of child proofing. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have noted that there are trace amounts of harmful chemicals, including chemicals that are known to lead to cancer in some e-cigarette vapor. Even so, the UK National Health Service has declared that the chemicals found by the FDA were at one-thousandth of that of a regular cigarette. Nonetheless, e-cigarette sales have been banned from New Jersey, California, and Oregon and continue to be a controversial item.

Many regular smokers have switched over to e-cigarettes, believing that they are a viable alternative. The vaping electronic cigarette community views this device to be healthier than normal smoking. The sale of e-cigarettes has increased from 50,000 in 2008 to 3.5 million by 2012. A UK survey found that 12,000 adults, 11% of smokers, claim they regularly use e-cigarettes. With this result, Electronic cigarettes remain a hot item to this day.

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