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History of vapes and heated tobacco

How and when were the alternatives created?

Who invented vaping and when did the first vape come out? A brief history of vaping․

Have you ever wondered when vaping began? While smoking tobacco has been around for centuries, vaping is often thought of as a relatively recent innovation. Some sources say that the concept of vaping has been around since the 1920s, meaning the idea is almost 100 years old!

In 1927, a man named Joseph Robinson created the first electric vaporizer, a device which “electrically or otherwise heated to produce vapors”. From that point forward, different forms of vaping devices slowly began emerging over the years.

Here is a little more on vape history.

What is vaping?

Today, vaping is the act of using a vape, also known as an e cigarette. Vapes are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid, also known as e liquid, which may contain nicotine. When the e liquid is in contact with the vape’s heat source, it starts to vaporize and creates an aerosol, which is inhaled. As no smoke is created, vapes are classed as a smoke-free alternative to cigarettes.

Vapes come in all shapes and sizes and are known for having many different product options to choose from. Some e cigarettes are completely disposable, while others can be reused. Some look like cigarettes (called cig-a-likes), and others may resemble cigars or pens. There are also countless e liquid flavors to choose from, and some e liquids even have varying nicotine levels.

Phil Ray and Norman Jacobson - how did we get the word ‘vape’?

Vaping as we know it today started to become more crystallized as a concept and accessible product in the 1980s. This is when the terms “vape” and “vaping” came to life. Phil Ray, the father of the microprocessor and manager of the Apollo Space Program, was a smoker himself. He started working on a “smokeless cigarette” with his personal physician, Dr. Norman Jacobson. Their product would not require combustion, and it differed from some other inventions thus far as it also aimed to deliver a dose of nicotine. The product also looked like a cigarette in terms of shape, color and design. Inside the device was a filter paper which was soaked in nicotine, and once inhaled, nicotine was delivered without combustion or smoke.

Ray and Jacobson were some of the first formal researchers in the field of nicotine delivery, and commercialized their product, though it did not achieve widespread success. However, it was during trial studies of the product that Ray did not want his participants to be referred to as “smokers” who were “smoking”, and thus contributed the terms “vape” and “vaping” to the vocabulary that we use today.

Hon Lik - how did we get the modern e cigarette?

In the early 2000s, the modern and most commercially successful e cigarette was finally born. It was invented by a Chinese pharmacist named Hon Lik in Beijing. A smoker himself, Lik’s first iterations were big and bulky, and he believed that the product must be more convenient for every day, on-the-go use in order to achieve mainstream acceptance and encourage switching from cigarettes.

Lik finally developed a smaller, refined device that used a high frequency ultrasound-emitting element in combination with a coiled heating wire to vaporize a nicotine-containing liquid. This was patented in 2003, and in 2004, e cigarettes with a battery-powered heating element that vaporized e liquid hit the Chinese market. By 2005, e cigarettes started being sold internationally.

New vaping technology - how are e cigarettes different today?

Some versions of the e cigarettes of the past did not incorporate the delivery of nicotine. It was really when that idea was introduced by Ray and Jacobson, and later improved upon by Lik, that vaping started to become commercially viable. Ultimately, it came down to being able to develop the efficient devices to deliver this experience to existing adult smokers and nicotine users.

The history of IQOS tobacco heating devices

Today, companies continue to invest in developing a wider variety of improved smoke-free technologies. For example, IQOS is able to offer different smoke-free alternative options to every adult who would otherwise continue to smoke, heated tobacco, that allows the heating of real tobacco without the need for burning.

Learn more about the cutting-edge IQOS heated tobacco technology.


The first IQOS devices date back to 2014, when the innovative heat-not-burn alternative was launched in Japan and Italy. Gradually, IQOS rolled out to other countries and is available now in 51 countries. However, the history of IQOS dates back to 2008, when Philip Morris International first started working towards providing alternatives for smoking. Our commitment is the result of many years of careful deliberation, backed up by a substantial research and development program. In 2018, the sale of IQOS tobacco heating devices started in Armenia as well. IQOS is part of our portfolio of smoke-free products, for which PMI invested over USD 6 billion and more than 10 years of research and product development. At the same time, more than 400 scientists and engineers collaborated on the development and assessment of smoke-free products. So far, more than 14.9 million adult smokers have chosen to switch to IQOS and leave cigarettes behind. 1



1Source։ PMI Financials or estimates, IQOS user panels and PMI Market Research. Status as of October 2021. IQOS users who have completely quit cigarettes and for whom HeatSticks represent more than 70% of their past 7-day tobacco consumption.

This product is not risk free and provides nicotine, which is addictive. Only for use by adults.