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The History of Vaping – Cannabis Life Network


Vaping has become all the rage in recent times, but there is actually a long history of vaping that far precedes its trendy subculture today.

The earliest days of modern vaping were not shrouded in coolness, nor was it as youth-oriented as it appears today. Today, vaping is sometimes viewed as a hobby or leisure activity, but modern vapes were actually born out of necessity.

Vaping: Born from Neccessity, Spawning its own Culture

People have been trying to find alternatives to smoking for a long time. From nicotine gum to patches, different products have seen different levels of success, but none have become the cultural phenomenon that vapes have.

Vapes owe much of this to e-cigarettes. While they are fundamentally the same thing, there are key aesthetic and even functional differences between vapes and e-cigarettes. However, no history of vaping is complete without talking about e-cigarettes.

The first reference to e-cigarettes and vaping comes from the 1930s, when inventor Joseph Robinson sought to create a vaporizing device meant for “medicinal compounds.” While he successfully received a patent for his idea, it is unclear whether any successful prototype was ever created.

Image from: US Patents

It wasn’t until decades later, in the 1960s, that another inventor managed to put something together. Herbert Gilbert designed and made a device that allowed for the combustion of tobacco without smoke. Sadly, the product was never commercialized.

Image from: US Patent and Trademark Office

Fast forward to the 2000s–this is where it gets interesting. The elusive but game-changing Volcano vaporizer starts gaining traction, though it is pointedly not for tobacco. Supposedly, it had been sold as early as the 90s, though it didn’t really become a cultural phenomenon until the 2000s. Regardless, this product started a conversation about alternative ways of smoking cannabis and introduced many smokers to the idea of vaporizing.

Photo by: Michal Sänger

The appeal of the Volcano vaporizers come from a number of key benefits:

  1. A supposedly more potent hit
  2. Reduction of unpleasant smells
  3. Its novelty

Today, cannabis vapes have taken these building blocks and offer a very similar value proposition.

With all that said, the e-cigarette wasn’t truly invented until 2003, when Chinese pharmacist and inventor Hon Lik set out to create an alternative solution once and for all following the death of his father to lung cancer, and his own addiction to cigarettes.

Photo by: InspiredImages

Hon Lik’s e-cigarettes were incredibly straightforward in their design. Visually, they resembled regular cigarettes; indeed, the entire purpose of e-cigarettes was to imitate real cigarettes as much as possible, sating the smoker’s desire to get their hands on the real thing.

This revolutionary invention started becoming increasingly popular, slowly spreading throughout the world. People embraced this new form of smoking, which was seen as less harmful not just to the smoker but also to the people around the smoker. During this period of discovery and experimentation, enterprising inventors and businesses no doubt realized the further commercial potential of e-cigarettes. What if we took the same principle of vaporization, but redesigned the product so that it was more stylish and cool?

Vapes are markedly different from e-cigarettes: they are not exactly primarily used to simulate smoking, though many users do use them as a way to quit smoking. They do not physically resemble cigarettes. There are additional functions vapes have that e-cigarettes do not, such as the ability to be modified so that they produce bigger or thicker “clouds”. These clouds have no functional purpose. Rather, they are purely for enjoyment.

Photo by: Knighthood Studio

It is difficult to say exactly who invented the first vape, who came up with the idea for highly customizable vape mods, or even who first proposed the idea of the now highly popular vape pods.

All we know is that vaping experienced a sudden surge in popularity around the 2010s, resulting in its own subculture of enthusiasts and collectors and resulting in the birth of hundreds of businesses manufacturing their own vape products. It is safe to say that modern vapes have diverged from the original purpose of e-cigarettes. In fact, some of the most popular vape products today resemble pendrives more than they resemble cigarettes.

Like nicotine vapes, cannabis vapes have also evolved over the years. The bulky Volcano vaporizers have now moved aside to make way for sleek cannabis vape pens. Despite some controversy about the safety of these products, many cannabis users are now gravitating towards weed pens due to their discreetness.

It is incredibly interesting how small businesses created such a cultural phenomenon, without much government oversight or control. Getting into vaping was pretty much a word of mouth thing, and vaping fans have taken on a reputation as being some of the most enthusiastic subcultures today.

Whether you vape cannabis or nicotine, you likely have an opinion on whether you prefer vaping or smoking. Let us know what you think in the comments below and follow us at @cannalifenet for more discussions!


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