Worldwide sales of electronic cigarettes and related products has reached over $7 billion for 2016. It’s amazing for far the industry has gone in just a decade. Of course, it hasn’t been smooth sailing all the way with controversies popping up from time to time. Yet these have not been able to slow down the momentum as more people are getting into this vaping hobby. The industry has responded by creating more interesting products to improve the user experience and increase safety. New flavors are also coming out every day so vaping will never get stale. Let’s look back at how all of this started.
The credit goes to a Chinese pharmacist named Hon Lik who was looking for a tobacco alternative after the death of his father. He used his expertise to develop a device that could vaporize liquid which could then be inhaled like smoke but without the harmful chemicals in conventional cigarettes. Thanks to his background as a researcher, he was able to find solutions through trial and error. He experimented with different technologies to improve the results with resistance heating becoming his preferred method. The patent was filed in 2003 and the rest was history. This is considered as the birth of the modern e-cigarette.
By the following year, the domestic market was introduced to the concept with mostly positive reactions. It became popular enough that it began circulating to other countries through online sellers. It began to be certain that there is an international market that is just waiting to be tapped. Lik’s company then filed for an international patent in 2007 and changed its name to Ruyan. Unfortunately, all these patents did not stop others from copying the design without providing compensation through licensing. A few lawsuits have resulted in out of court settlements. Legalities simply could not stop the rest of the world from latching on to the concept and improving on it.
The US is one of the largest markets for this class of products. In the beginning, only a handful of stores sold them locally. They would import a few pieces from China and sell them to a small group that consisted mostly of enthusiasts. This quickly changed as more people got curious about the technology and started trying it. More stores started to open both on the web and in physical spaces. Several US-based companies have also started to create their own branded e-cigs. They feature new designs that improved performance. The e-liquid market is also thriving with lots of exciting flavors being introduced.
Electronic cigarettes remain legal in the US though regulation is gradually increasing. In the first few years, the government did not pay much attention to this product segment. The phenomenal surge in popularity has made everyone turn their heads and study the impact more closely. In 2016, the use of e-cigs was banned on all flights coming into and out of the country. Stores can only sell to adults though this is largely self-determined, especially when it comes to online sales. Physical stores may ask for IDs. The FDA is also tightening the noose with manufacturers needing to register and comply with regulations.
The Rest of the World
E-cigs have had the same effect in the rest of the world including Europe, Asia, South America, and elsewhere. Use has skyrocketed but this has been met by some push-back. In the UK, these have been classified as medicines and are thus subjected to strict regulations. In Canada, it is illegal to sell nicotine-loaded liquids but this is not enforced that well with the products being easy to acquire around the country. Some nations have banned them outright including Singapore, Brazil, Seychelles, Norway and Uruguay. It should be noted that Singapore has always been tough on smoking in general imposing hefty taxes on tobacco products, mandating graphic labels, and preventing their use in public.
As for the tobacco industry, it has finally realized that e-cigs are a big threat but that vaping may also be the future so they must position themselves accordingly. It has gone from ignoring this niche market to investing in various companies that manufacture vaping hardware. Several of the leading names in the e-cig business have been bought by the giant firms like Philip Morris, British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco, Reynolds American, and so on.