The story of vaping
Vaping will be known as one of the 21st century success stories, responsible for disrupting one of the major recreations the world – smoking.
Whilst the modern e-cigarette is said to have been invented in 2003 by Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik, the vaping industry started to truly emerge in the UK from 2007 onwards with the introduction of the smoking ban which prohibited smoking in almost all enclosed public spaces. The rest as they say is history.
The market has been driven largely by entrepreneurial SMEs, many of which have gone on to become major businesses in their own right on the back of one of the fastest growing industries in the world. Tobacco and pharmaceutical companies have also entered the market in the last five years, a period in which the sales of vaping products have exploded.
The rise of vaping is reflected in the continuous innovation in the marketplace which is responding to evolving consumer demand: from first generation cigalikes, designed to appeal to smokers, to third generation mods which enable vapers to self assemble with a range of flavoured e-liquid, tanks and atomisers. Its success is also seen through the increase in sales channels from online wholesaling and retailing in the early days through to products making their way into the retail convenience and multiples sector, and more recently the emergence of specialist vape stores as a result of the growing diversity of product types.
During the industry’s first ten years there has been mounting evidence published by a number of respected and high profile organisations showing that vaping is safer than smoking and is helping significant numbers of smokers to quit.
Even governments are now realising the potential of vaping versus smoking. In the recent Tobacco Control Plan, the UK Government acknowledged the significant role that vaping has played in helping smokers to quit and committed to a review of the current regulatory framework as well as the inclusion of messages about the relative safety of electronic cigarettes in Public Health England’s quit smoking campaigns. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA), a federal agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, has also committed to a review of the way in which low risk products such as e-cigs are regulated so that smokers are able to switch to safer alternatives, signalling a softer stance on the vaping industry.
Herbert Gilbert patented a device that produced a vapour from tobacco by heat rather than combustion. It was never commercialised despite interest from the tobacco industry.
Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik invents the e-cigarette. A smoker, he was inspired after watching his father die of cancer from his smoking habit.
Industry starts to emerge in the UK selling first generation cigalikes. This coincides with a ban prohibiting smoking in public enclosed spaces.
The Food & Drug Administration (FDA), a federal agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services declared the electronic cigarette an approved medical device.
Several nations ban e-cigs that included nicotine.
Science begins to get behind the industry and highlight the promise of vaping. However, the FDA announces that it will regulate electronic cigarettes under the existing tobacco regulatory framework.
A lot of positives. The industry’s attractiveness is reflected in the first acquisition of a vaping business by a tobacco company with Lorillard buying Blu. It was the year that vaping was identified by Goldman Sachs as one of the world’s most disruptive technologies, with the potential of overtaking smoking by 2023. Vaping products also start making their way into convenience stores and multiple retailers.
Vaping is Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year, whilst specialist vape stores start to emerge on the back of the growing number of products.
The US FDA extended its regulatory power to include e-cigarettes, whilst the UK Vaping Industry Association is created to represent all those companies with vaping interests.
The UK market is predicted to be worth £1bn in sales whilst international markets receive a boost with news that both the UK and US Governments acknowledge the role that vaping can play in helping smokers quit and have committed to a review of the regulations related to the sector.
A guide to vaping
Electronic cigarettes are also commonly referred to e-cigarettes, e-cigs, electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) or electronic non-nicotine delivery systems (ENNDS). E-liquids or juices are the flavoured solutions that are found inside the e-cigarette.
The device works by heating a liquid to generate vapour, hence the phrase is vaping. The e-liquid is usually made of nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerine, and flavourings. Not all e-liquids contain nicotine.
The key components of a vaping device are a mouthpiece, a cartridge (tank), a heating element/atomizer, a microprocessor, a battery, and possibly an LED light on the end. Third generation mods contain no electronics. The atomizer comprises a small heating element, or coil, that vapourises the liquid and draws liquid onto the coil. When the user pushes a button, or (in some variations) activates a pressure sensor by inhaling, the heating element atomizes the liquid solution. The e-liquid reaches a temperature of roughly 100-250 °C within a chamber to create an aerosolised vapour, which is inhaled by the vaper.
“I’ve been vaping for about 2 and a half years. I’m asthmatic and as a smoker I was struggling to breathe going up stairs, stuff that a young person should be able to do on a day-to-day basis. I thought something had to change.
“Since I started vaping, my asthma has got a lot better. I use my inhaler a lot less and my lung capacity has doubled in the time I’ve been vaping, so I’m definitely seeing the health benefits.
“There are only 3 chemicals involved in vaping; PG, VG and nicotine. It’s a really clean way of getting your nicotine rather than getting all the carcinogens, all the horrible stuff in your lungs.
“I had a lot of people supporting my decision to switch to vaping. My partner and I decided to give up smoking together and we went into our local vape shop and they gave us all the information and they kitted me out. It definitely made a difference having my partner’s support along the way.
“I noticed the differences between smoking and vaping within the first week.
“I felt like I could taste a lot more and I breathed a lot easier. I didn’t have the stale smell of cigarettes on my clothes and I actually started to notice the smell on other people. When you’re smoking you don’t realise how bad the smell is.”
“I started smoking in my early teens and I’ve smoked for about 20 years. Seven years ago I decided to try out vaping. Now I’ve made the switch I’d never go back to smoking. I’ve tried the odd roll up now and again but I just don’t enjoy it anymore. It was hard at first making the switch because it’s a completely different sensation. But vaping has had such a positive impact on me. It doesn’t smell as bad, it’s a lot healthier and it tastes a lot better.
“I’ve really noticed the health benefits.
“I don’t wake up in the morning coughing, my room smells so much better as well as my clothes. My teeth aren’t yellow anymore! My breathing is better. I’ve managed to get back to the gym and I can do my runs like I used to so it’s greatly improved my health.
“I spend about £15 to £20 a week on vaping but I used to spend about £70 a week on smoking. So it’s a hell of a difference. Now I don’t have to worry about spending all my money on cigarettes and have a lot more cash to spare each week.
“I don’t think enough is done to promote the health benefits of vaping.
“There aren’t many adverts on the TV about the benefits. There’s plenty of negative information about smoking but very little about vaping. I think more could be done to show the comparison between the lungs of a vaper and a smoker. It’s important to stress the health benefits of vaping over cigarettes.”
“I’ve been vaping for nearly 5 years now but before that I smoked for 23 years. It took me about a month to completely make the switch and I don’t touch cigarettes anymore. There’s no need or urge to do so. In fact, I find smoking quite unpleasant now.
“I ordered an e-cigarette because I was curious about them. I like sci-fi and I think they’re very futuristic. After trying one I much preferred it and it was a completely painless switch. I’d tried stopping before using other methods and it’s such a hard thing to do. You are constantly thinking about smoking it’s always on your mind but with vaping it’s different as it’s such a pleasant experience.
“Since I started vaping I noticeably have more stamina for instance, I can run for longer. I also have less colds and can breathe more easily and more deeply. So many scientific studies have shown the health benefits of smoking over vaping. For me the switch was a no brainer! It’s clear vaping has very few risks.
“I’ve also saved about £5,000 since I stopped smoking, so I clearly have more money than I did before.
“People are going to want to use nicotine and you do find it naturally in vegetables. Now people can appreciate the benefits of nicotine without smoking. I think the future involves us viewing nicotine in the same way we view caffeine so that we use it in a safe manner.”
“I started smoking during my A-Levels as a stress reliever. It was during my second year of university when I realised smoking was seriously affecting my health.
“My room at university was up three flights of stairs and I tried to carry some boxes up those flights of stairs and I was left really breathless. I knew I could have done it with no issues two years before when I wasn’t a smoker. But I was wheezing like I was asthmatic. It was that one moment when I realised something had to change.
“The switch was a little tricky for me at first. There is still a lot of habit you get from going out and lighting a cigarette with friends. I did also get all six of my housemates vaping instead of smoking so we were all spurred on by each other.
“I’ve been vaping for the last 2 years and it’s had a massive impact on my health. I don’t get winded as easily. I can breather more easily. I’ve also noticed a change in how I taste things. You don’t realise how smoking dulls your sense of flavour. I’m really into food and a week after I made the switch I noticed how everything tasted a lot brighter and the flavours were so much stronger. It really surprised me how different it was.
“I went out to a club during university with my friends and I got stuck in the smoking area for 3 hours because so many people wanted to know what I was doing, what flavour I was using and so many of them wanted to try it out.
“I think there is a real lack of understanding surrounding vaping. But once you have a go and learn from a vaper and find out what it’s about, I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who wouldn’t be convinced to make the switch.”
Health research into vaping
Now with more years behind the industry, growing evidence is coming forward which supports the public health case for vaping.