It wasn’t until about 220 years ago that doctors started realizing just how harmful smoking can be.

Ever since then inventors have been on a quest to find new ways to get satisfying nicotine high, without the harmful cigarettes.

When did vaping begin?

The first documented reference to an electronic cigarette was patented by Joseph Robinson in 1930. It was never commercialised and it is not entirely clear that even a prototype of this primitive device was manufactured. It was a device called ‘Mechanical Butane Ignition Vaporizer’ but never brought it to the market, leaving the concept left under wraps for a few decades.

He dreamt the device would make it easier to inhale vapours without any possibility of being burned but people kept on smoking.

In 1979, Phil Ray worked with his personal physician Norman Jacobson to create the first commercialised variation of the e-cigarette (which was not actually electronic; it relied on evaporation of the nicotine). The commercialisation of the product reached major retailers but the device was never a promising technology for nicotine delivery; Jacobson attributes its failure to it being inherently faulty. While the device proved to be a dead-end, the inventors did contribute the word “vape” to the language.

During the 1990’s there was a flurry from entrepreneurs and tobacco companies filing patents for nicotine inhaling devices. A major U.S. tobacco company asked permission from the FDA (which did not then regulate tobacco products, but did regulate drug delivery devices) to bring a version of an e-cigarette to market around 1998. The FDA denied the request on the basis of it being an unapproved drug delivery device.


In 2001 Hon Lik, a Chinese pharmacist whose father had passed away from lung cancer experimented with different vaporisation devices to find a liquid substance that would replicate the sensation of smoking. Using propylene glycol along with vegetable glycerine, his experiment remains one of the key e-liquid ingredients to this day.


Unlike his predecessors, he had access to modern lithium batteries, which would allow his e-cigs to run for hours at a time. He placed a small lithium battery into a tube to atomise the liquid solution, and in doing so, helped shape the e-cigarette we’re familiar with today.

In 2006 electronic cigarettes were introduced into the European market and also the U.S.

In 2008 The World Health Organization proclaims that it does not consider the electronic cigarette to be a legitimate smoking cessation aid and demands that marketers immediately remove from their materials any suggestions that the WHO considers electronic cigarettes safe and effective.

Also Turkey’s Health Ministry suspends the sale of e-cigarettes. Health Ministry Drugs and Pharmacy Director, Mahmut Tokaç, claims electronic cigarettes are just as harmful as regular cigarettes.

In October 2008 a study funded by Ruyan, Health New Zealand conducts a detailed quantitative analysis and concludes that carcinogens and toxicants are present only below harmful levels. On the basis of these findings, the e-cigarette is rated several orders of magnitude less dangerous than smoking tobacco cigarettes. The nicotine dose is comparable to that of a medicinal nicotine inhaler. Overall, the product tested was deemed a “safe alternative to smoking.”


In October 2010 the very first “Vape Fest” was held in the UK.


In February 2011 a study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reporting that electronic cigarettes are a promising tool to help smokers quit, producing six-month abstinence rates that are better than those for traditional nicotine replacement products.


In August 2011 a study was published in the journal “Addiction” providing strong evidence that electronic cigarettes are being used with success by many smokers to quit smoking or cut down substantially on the number of cigarettes they consume, and that e-cigarettes are being used with success by many ex-smokers to remain off cigarettes.


October 2011 see the results of the first clinical trial of electronic cigarettes, reported in the journal BMC Public Health, suggests e-cigarettes may be more effective than traditional NRT products for smoking cessation and may be particularly effective in smokers who are not motivated to quit.


Domestically, the prevalence of vaping has been pretty consistent for the last few years. According to the Vaping in England, evidence update summary around 6% of adults in England vape. This equates to around 2.7million people.



Here in the UK, we have some of the most robust e-cigarette/Vape regulations compared with most other countries.

The requirements:

  • restrict e-cigarette tanks to a capacity of no more than 2ml
  • restrict e-liquids to a nicotine strength of no more than 20mg/ml
  • require nicotine-containing products or their packaging to be child-resistant and tamper evident
  • ban certain ingredients including colourings, caffeine and taurine
  • include new labelling requirements and warnings
  • require all e-cigarettes and e-liquids be notified and published by the MHRA before they can be sold


The Tobacco Products and Nicotine Inhaling Products (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020