Skip to navigationSkip to content
Lily Allen at the Cheltenham Festival, UK - 3/15/19
zz/KGC-107/STAR MAX/IPx 2019
All the rage.

A brief history of e-cigarettes

Jenni Avins
Member exclusive by Jenni Avins for The vaping invasion

It might feel like vaping has come out of nowhere, but tobacco and technology companies have been workshopping alternatives to combustible cigarettes for decades now—and largely flopping. Perhaps back in the 2000s, you encountered what appeared to be a cigarette, only to discover the “lit” end was a battery-operated light. Or a few years ago, you might have mistaken a friend’s Pax or Juul for a high-tech lighter or slim USB drive. (Were we ever so young?)

But within the last decade or so, as cigarette sales flag, e-cigarettes have come into their own. According to Euromonitor, between 2015 and 2018 sales of e-vapor products and heated tobacco products (HTPs) increased a whopping 228%, from an estimated $8.4 billion to $27.6 billion. Herewith, a short history of how we got here:   

  • 5000-3000 BCTobacco—aka Nicotiana tabacum and Nicotiana rustica—is first cultivated in the Americas. “The most striking features of early tobacco use are the variety of reasons employed to justify its consumption, and the diversity of ways in which it was taken,” writes Iain Gately in Tobacco: A Cultural History of How an Exotic Plant Seduced Civilization. There was no Candy Crush vape juice in the pre-Columbian era, but the desire to diversify nicotine consumption was there. Tobacco was sniffed, chewed, eaten, drunk, smeared over bodies, used in eye drops and enemas, and smoked … and not least it served as a simple narcotic for daily use by men and women.”

You are reading a Quartz member exclusive.

Become a member to keep reading this story and the rest of our expert analyses of the changing global economy.

Why we think you’ll like it:

The rest of our guide to The vaping invasion

News of the moment that’s contextualized, digestible, and always global in perspective

Exclusive, deeply researched guides on what the economy’s next normal will look like

Master this transition in your work and personal life through direct access to our journalists and the rest of our community

Quartz Japanへの登録をご希望の方はこちらから。