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A brief history of the e-cigarette

Electronic cigarettes are growing in popularity around the world. With the announcement of vape as our Word of the Year, we have put together a timeline of the history of e-cigarettes.



  • Dr. Norman Jacobson, one of the pioneers of the word “vaping,” develops the Favor cigarette, a way to inhale nicotine with no smoke.




February 2012

  • Nicotine and Tobacco Research publishes a study, entitled “Electronic Cigarettes: Effective Nicotine Delivery After Acute Administration,” which explores nicotine intake with different electronic cigarette devices.

June 2013

September 2013

December 2013

  • Nicotine and Tobacco Research publishes a study, entitled “Secondhand Exposure to Vapors From Electronic Cigarettes.” It reveals that “using an e-cigarette in indoor environments may involuntarily expose non-users to nicotine, but not to toxic tobacco-specific combustion products.”
  • World leading tobacco experts argue that a recently published World Health Organization (WHO)-commissioned review of evidence on e-cigarettes contains important errors, misinterpretations, and misrepresentations, putting policy-makers and the public in danger of foregoing the potential public health benefits of e-cigarettes.”
Different types of electronic cigarettes by Vaping360. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.
Different types of electronic cigarettes by Vaping360. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.

January 2014

  • The Chicago City Council voted to regulate electronic cigarettes the same as traditional cigarettes,  which “prohibits the use of e-cigarettes in public places, requires stores selling them to keep them behind the counter, and prohibits their sale to minors.”
  • The UK bans e-cigarettes for people under 18.

February 2014

  • The European Parliament approves regulations on e-cigarettes. “Beginning in mid-2016, advertising for e-cigarettes would be banned in the 28 nations of the European Union, as it already is for ordinary tobacco products. E-cigarettes would also be required to carry graphic health warnings and must be childproof. The amount of nicotine would be limited to 20 milligrams per milliliter, similar to ordinary cigarettes.”

March 2014

  • Journal of Psychiatric Research reports on e-cigarette use within different age groups and finds that “a notable proportion of adolescents and young adults who never smoked cigarettes had ever-used e-cigarettes. E-cigarette use was not consistently associated with attempting to quit tobacco among young adults. Adults most often reported e-cigarettes as a substitute for tobacco, although not always to quit. Reviewed studies showed a somewhat different pattern of e-cigarette use among young people (new e-cigarette users who had never used tobacco) versus adults (former or current tobacco users).”

April 2014

  • A proposal from the FDA requires  e-cigarettes to “undergo an agency review,” which would ban e-cigarette sales to minors and require e-cigarettes to have warning labels.
  • The AAP releases a statement on the dangers of e-cigarette poisoning in children.
  • A US congressional report surveys the marketing tactics of e-cigarette companies, which directs sales towards youth, and calls on the FDA to set regulations for e-cigarette marketing.
  • The FDA proposes regulations on e-cigarettes, which gives them authority over e-cigarettes and expands its’ authority over tobacco products. The AAP still urges the FDA to protect young people from the effects of e-cigarettes.

May 2014

  • The AAP surveyed a random sample of adults, and according to the research presented, “the vast majority of young adults who have used the devices believe they are less harmful than regular cigarettes…”
  • Tobacco Control BMJ releases a study on e-cigarette use and individuals with mental health conditions.
  • A study for Nicotine and Tobacco Research finds that the vapors from e-cigarettes contain “toxic and carcinogenic carbonyl compounds,” and the amount of formaldehyde in the vapors is similar to the amount reported in tobacco smoke.

June 2014

July 2014

  • The BBC bans the use of e-cigarettes in all its offices and studios.

August 2014

  • A study from Nicotine and Tobacco Research states that “there is a risk of thirdhand exposure to nicotine from e-cigarettes,” although the exposure levels differ depending on the brand of the devices used.
  • A study from Nicotine and Tobacco Research states that “in 2013, over a quarter million never-smoking youth had used e-cigarettes. E-cigarette use was associated with increased intentions to smoke cigarettes.”
  • The American Heart Association (AHA) calls on the FDA for more research on e-cigarettes, to apply the same regulations on e-cigarettes as tobacco and nicotine products, and to create new regulations to prevent access, sale, and marketing to youth.
  • A World Health Organization (WHO) report states that e-cigarettes need regulation to “impede e-cigarette promotion to non-smokers and young people; minimize potential health risks to e-cigarette users and nonusers; prohibit unproven health claims about e-cigarettes; and protect existing tobacco control efforts from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.”
  • The WHO reports that “governments should ban the use of electronic cigarettes in public places and outlaw tactics to lure young users.”

September 2014

October 2014

  • A study for Nicotine and Tobacco Research states that “over 75% of US adults reported uncertainty or disapproval of the use of e-cigarettes in smoke-free areas. Current cigarette smokers, adults aware or have ever used e-cigarettes were more supportive to exempting e-cigarettes from smoking restrictions.”

Headline image credit: Vaping an electronic cigarette by Jon Williams. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.

Recent Comments

  1. Joe

    This is a useful post, but I feel some of the references are to outdated material now. The post is very useful overall, but issues like “thirdhand” smoke are completely unproven in my view :)
    Thanks again, great to have the timeline so well laid-out.

  2. John

    Thanks for this informative post regarding E-cig history. As a store owner, it was definitely interesting to see a kind of timeline layout of how E-cigs started. I also had no idea they’ve been on the market since 2007, thought it was a few years after that.

  3. dan

    Fortunately the time line has moved on – the UK Gov recent report: “E-cigarettes around 95% less harmful than tobacco estimates landmark review”
    Read it here https://www.gov.uk/government/news/e-cigarettes-around-95-less-harmful-than-tobacco-estimates-landmark-review

  4. Vaping Insider

    Nice timeline of the ecigarette and vaping industry. With all the controversy that has been surrounding the industry in the US recently it would be interesting to see this updated for 2015/2016

  5. Naresh Chauhan

    Thanks for this informative post regarding E-cig history. As a store owner, it was definitely interesting to see a kind of timeline layout of how E-cigs started.

  6. Ecassoc.org

    As with Naresh I’m also an e cig store owner and pro vaping website owner and this information helped me a ton. Thanks for the article.

  7. Nancy Miller

    That point about thirdhand seems to be at least controversial, there’s no such thing as “thirdhand vaping”, it’s nothing similar to classic tobacco fumes. Eliquids http://gypsyvapes.com/Top-ELiquid-EJuice-Brands vaporize not into smoke, they contain food approved PG/VG.

  8. jos

    Its a nice summary of the vape history. I do agree that bit of updating is required as it does not include all sides for argument about e cigarette

  9. Rachel Sweeney

    I had no idea e-cigarettes were so old… what the heck? How did we only hear about them in the past few years? That’s crazy! I wonder if tobacco companies had something to do with it…

  10. […] Vaping has been around since the early 1900s but wasn’t popularized until the mid-2000s when a Chinese company called Hon Link created the first modern e-cigarette. Since then, the industry has exploded with all types of popular vaping devices, ranging from large box mods to discrete thumb-drive sized devices. […]

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