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A brief history of e-cigarettes

Lily Allen at the Cheltenham Festival, UK - 3/15/19
zz/KGC-107/STAR MAX/IPx 2019
All the rage.
  • Jenni Avins
By Jenni Avins

senior lifestyle correspondent

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

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.”

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