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How Has Vaping Technology Evolved?

April 09, 2022

Like many other industries, vaping technology has rapidly evolved over the past two decades. 

The vaping technology we use today is almost unrecognizable compared to what first emerged on the market back in 2003.

The combination of smaller, more discreet vape models, mod vape kits that allow for a more personalized experience, and a wider variety of e-liquid strengths and flavours have completely transformed vaping. 

Now on the cusp of an exciting fourth-generation, vaping technology has come a long way in just under twenty years. Still, with numerous exciting possibilities on the horizon, the rapid pace of innovation is far from over.   

When Was Vaping First Invented?

When we talk about the beginning of vaping, it can be challenging to determine exactly where to start. While the first e-cigarette only appeared in 2003, the first recorded reference and design of what we would today call a vape came in 1927 when American Joseph Robinson patented what he named a Mechanical Butane Ignition Vaporizer

Robinson’s patent was never actually commercialized, and it was over forty years until vaping took its next significant stride forward. 

In 1963, Herbert A Gilbert designed a cigarette alternative without combustion. What would probably have been a huge hit today was deemed unfashionable in the 1960s, and, once again, vaping evolution stalled.

In the 1980s, two men, Phil Ray and Normal Jacobson developed the first commercialized variation on the e-cigarette, which involved the nicotine evaporating rather than combusting. Once again, despite plenty of promise, the venture was not a commercial success. However, it did introduce a word that has come to define e-cigarettes - vaping.   

The Beginning and Development of Vaping

Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik created the first commercial vape device, launched in the Chinese market in 2003. The e-cigarette created by Lik, whose father had died of lung cancer, was seen as a long-term replacement for traditional cigarettes. Still, even he must have been surprised by the product's rapid transformation. 

Lik's early device may have been big and clunky, but it was also revolutionary. His combination of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerine remains an essential ingredient in e-liquid to this day. Further, the inclusion of tiny lithium batteries set a precedent still used in modern vapes. 

First-Generation Vapes

The first generation of vapes included the early models of the early 2000s that more closely resembled traditional cigarettes than what we see today and came with the nickname cig-a-likes. These were around the same size as an actual cigarette and often bore a similar appearance.  

Second-Generation Vapes

The second generation of vapes focused on rechargeable models with a longer battery life, providing a significantly better vaping experience. Many of second generation e-cigarettes and vapes looked more like laser pointers or pens than cigarettes and came with a battery that lasted 4-7 times longer than cig-a-likes. 

Second-generation vapes typically included a button that had to be pressed while inhaling, along with manual controls over the vape's voltage for the first time. 

Second-gen vapes also began to use 510 threaded connections in their batteries which provided much wider compatibility with atomizers (the component of your vaping device responsible for generating the vapour) and clearomizers (where the e-liquid is stored and heated). 

We are currently in the third generation of vape devices, and technology continues to evolve at a frantic pace.  

Modern Day Vaping

The third generation of vaping has seen another mini-revolution that saw the emergence of mod kits, which, for many, completely transformed vaping. These vapes allowed for the complete personalization of the vape experience, allowing vaping connoisseurs to take complete control of voltage and temperature to improve flavour and vape cloud sizes.      

The vaping business has boomed over the last decade, running parallel with a more concerted effort to reduce traditional cigarette consumption and become a smoke-free society. For example, in the UK, the government has set a goal of 2030 for England to become smoke-free.  

Sleek, small and stylish, modern vapes are a far cry from the clumsy models of the early 2000s. With batteries that come with longer charges than ever, USB functions, and a dizzying array of e-liquids on offer, the vaping experience has undergone a remarkable transformation from the early 2000s.

The Future of Vape Technology

With vape and e-cigarette sales predicted to soar ever higher, and more advanced technology no doubt lurking around the corner, the future of vaping is sure to be full of surprises. 

Future vapes will almost certainly be even further reduced in size while providing better efficiency, more flavour, longer battery life, and an even more personalized vape experience. Innovations will likely include low ohm coils with a Low Resistance (LR) value, which means they burn at a higher temperature, produce more vapour and a more substantial throat hit.   

Technological advancements always grab the attention of consumers. We can expect today's coils to be replaced by nickel or titanium to improve conductivity and extend the life of the coils. 

We're also not too far away from vapes with Bluetooth and voice activation technology.


Few industries are barreling forward at the speed as the vape industry. In just under twenty years, vaping has evolved from rudimentary beginnings when interest from consumers remained low to a colossal sector now worth an estimated $18 billion.  

Vaping is now more popular than ever. Much of this is due to the blistering pace at which vape technology evolved, making it more accessible to the broader public. 

Whether you're looking to switch over from cigarette smoking to vaping now or you’re a seasoned pro interested in cutting edge vaping technology, RELX has exactly what you're looking for — both now and in the future!

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