In 1963, Herbert A. Gilbert filed a patent for the first ever design of an e-cigarette. At this time, the perils of tobacco and its terrible effects on human health were still in the early days of being discovered and yet, Gilbert foresaw these dangers and invented a healthier solution. However, he was far ahead of his time and his ideas were not taken up.
Coming forwards to the 21st Century, attitudes towards smoking have changed significantly. In 2007, the UK government issued the smoking ban calling for the total cessation of smoking in and enclosed area. The ban brought about a total rethink for clubs, bars and restaurants and left smokers, quite literally, out in the cold. Perhaps now was the time to consider the e-cigarette? Hon Lik, a Chinese pharmacist certainly thought so and, following the death of his father from lung cancer, Lik set about creating an alternative which had significantly fewer health concerns. His creation is the e-cigarette as we now know it: a way for smokers to get nicotine but without any of the harmful chemicals or tobacco and smoke of the convention means.
They were popularised firstly in Europe but by 2007, America was starting to catch on too. The World Health Organisation (WHO) were one of the first international organisations to publicly acknowledge them although they were quick to disqualify them as being a method for quitting smoking. However, in 2008, positive reports began to pour in from all around the globe with tests showing that e-cigarettes are between 100 to 1000 times less damaging to health than normal cigarettes.
In spite of this, both Canada and Australia banned e-cigarettes in 2009, and the US’s FDA banned the products from being imported into the country. The latter felt that the product should have proper registration, and required regulation to prevent them from becoming a potential danger. But, in spite of this, e-cigarette companies continued to fight, claiming that their product was a positive step forward rather than a hazard as the FDA wanted the world to believe. Lawsuits went back and forth with both sides maintaining their point of view throughout, in spite of tests continuing to prove the FDA’s findings to be inaccurate. Many, citing the FDA’s acceptance of traditional tobacco products, question their ability to pass fair judgement and point out the huge sums of tax money that cigarettes bring in each year as evidence of the less than kosher argument the FDA makes.
In 2014, the European Parliament passed standardisation regulations on the contents of e-cigarettes, as well as for their packaging and childproofing. The US’s FDA quickly followed suit. Later that year, the UK advertising standards agency also issued regulations on e-cigarettes, allowing them to be used in adverts and on TV – a forum which has long-since seen traditional tobacco products removed from the public eye. Following this progress, e-cigarettes continue to go from strength to strength with many countries worldwide beginning to recognise their outstanding potential to dramatically improve the health of smokers everywhere.