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The History of E-Liquid

With hundreds of vaping devices on the market, and more than 8,000 flavors and nicotine options, you might wonder how e-liquids came to be. Especially when you consider that vaping and e-cigarettes as we know them didn’t even exist just over a decade ago.

Hon Lik, the Father of E-Cigarettes

Hon Lik is a Chinese pharmacist and inventor, and is well-known as the creator of the e-cigarette. He was a lifelong smoker who had just lost his father to cancer, and struggled personally with quitting smoking. Legend has it that he decided to invent the e-cigarette upon waking up from a nightmare after falling asleep with a nicotine patch still on his arm. (*Do not try this at home.)

Starting around 2001, Lik used food additives as solvents and heated them to create an experience that was satisfying to smokers, while delivering the nicotine, flavor, throat hit, and mouth feel that smokers craved.

Lik spent two years perfecting the vaporizing process, first working with ultrasound to heat the e-liquid, and then settling on resistance heating, and patented the new device in 2003.

Hon Lik needed a liquid delivery system for his new e-cigarette, and being a pharmacist, he was just the man for the job. He worked with a variety of food additives, including propylene glycol (known as PG) which was already approved by the FDA and deemed safe for both pharmaceutical use and as a food additive. Not only that, PG was odorless, tasteless, colorless, an effective preservative with which to deliver the nicotine, and created a satisfying vapor.

Soon after, vegetable glycerin (VG) was also used as a base for e-liquid. Aside from being hypoallergenic (a bonus for vapers with PG sensitivity), VG created the bigger clouds that many Millennial vapers were seeking.

And while Hon Lik’s original flavors primarily served to duplicate the flavor of cigarettes, a whole new generation of vaping enthusiasts pushed e-liquid to the next level.

What you might not know is that Hon Lik was not the first to patent an e-cigarette device. That honor goes to Joseph Robinson who, in 1927, filed a patent for a “Mechanical Butane Ignition Vaporizer”, a device designed to heat medicinal compounds to produce vapor for inhalation. Approval for the patent was acquired seven years later, in 1930, but Robinson never brought his invention to market.

The First Prototype

It wasn’t until 1963 that Herbert Gilbert, a two pack a day smoker, created and patented the first known prototype of an e-cigarette. He received his patent for the “Smokeless non-tobacco cigarette” in 1965. Gilbert’s patent application described the device this way:

“The present invention relates to a smokeless nontobacco cigarette and has for an object to provide a safe and harmless means for and method of smoking by replacing burning tobacco and paper with heated, moist, flavored air; or by inhaling warm medication into the lungs in case of a respiratory ailment under direction of a physician.

Another object of the invention is to provide an article of manufacture resembling a cigarette by which air may be drawn through a porous substance of a cartridge which has been moistened with a chemically harmless flavoring preparation, combining moisture and taste following which the moist and flavored air passes through a section of the device heated by a suitable heating element so that warm, moist and flavored air is drawn into the mouth and if desired into the lungs of the user. 

A further object of the invention is to provide a smokeless non-tobacco cigarette in which provision is made for circulating the fluid around the heating element in a turbulent manner to suitably raise the temperature of the inhalent mixture, with the purpose that the temperature of the flavored air may approximate that of cigarette smoke.

Starting around 1978, two more pioneers were working on a way to inhale nicotine without the use of combustion. Dr. Norman Jacobsen, a physician, and J. Phillip Ray, whose resume to that point included being one of the early inventors of the microprocessor, and managing the Apollo program. You know, the moon guys. The two of them invented a kind of smokeless cigarette, basically a plastic tip which housed filter papers soaked in nicotine. When the user inhaled using the device, they received a “hit” or dose of nicotine, which the two referred to as “vaping”. The product had some problems, however. Pure nicotine had a pretty short shelf-life and would become bitter if not refrigerated. The partners eventually sold the technology to a Swedish company.

So, while Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik wasn’t the first, his e-cigarette and early e-liquids were the innovations that launched the e-juice extravaganza we have today.

The Vape Juice Renaissance

In the early days of e-cigarettes, the systems were closed, with little variety in e-juice flavors. Basically, you were stuck with whatever tobacco-esque e-juice flavor your cigalike came with. But all that changed in 2007, when Umer and Tariq Sheikh invented the cartomizer, which made e-juice customization possible for the first time in vaping history.

The e-juice market just snowballed from there. Suddenly there was every flavor and variation you could imagine, from beer, coffee, candy and soda flavors, to bacon and crab legs, birthday cake, watermelon, and sweet potatoes. Plus about 7,997 more.

Around 2009, modding and the DIY (Do It Yourself) movement started to take hold.

DIYers started posting their favorite e-juice recipes online in vaping forums. Vaping reviewers were suddenly everywhere on blogs, YouTube, and social media. This led to an explosion in artisanal e-juice manufacturers who started at their kitchen tables and tweaked their e-juice flavors to perfection – always pushing for better and bolder taste, mouth feel, throat hit, and clouds. The combination of enhanced e-juice flavors and constantly improving e-cigarette technology created the boom that vaping enjoys today.

Now there are close to a thousand companies utilizing state of the art technology, clean room production areas and other exciting advances -- producing e-liquids in every imaginable flavor, consistency, and pushing towards the next innovation in vaping.

THESAURUS/GLOSSARY

ALL DAY VAPE: Your favorite vape juice. Also, ADV.

AIRFLOW: The amount of air you suck into your tank or atomizer, resulting in higher or lower levels of vapor. More air = more clouds.

ALIEN COIL: A coil design evolved from the Clapton coil consisting of one wire wrapped around 3 core wires. A pretty build, if you’re into that.

AIR FLOW CONTROL: A dial or screw that allows you to adjust the drag on your device. Also, AFC

APV: Advanced Personal Vaporizer: Larger, modifiable vaporizers with replaceable batteries and variable components such as wattage and voltage. See MOD, MODS

ATTY: Also called an ATOMIZER. This is where the magic happens, vape-wise. It’s the part of the e-cigarette that produces vapor from your favorite e-liquid. The ATTY is home to the coil and wick, which is heated to create vapor.

AUTHENTIC: An e-juice or product created by the company that manufactures or sells it. Also, ORIGINAL.

AUTOMATIC: An e-cig mode where the atomizer is automatically heated without the vaper needing to push a button, accomplished with a sensor inside the atomizer.

AUTOMATIC SHUTOFF: A safety feature found in e-cigarettes that shuts off the unit if it detects that the unit has begun to overheat.

BIG TOBACCO: Also, BT, and THE MAN. Big Tobacco companies and all they represent.

BLANKS: Cartridges or Cartomizers with no e-liquid inside. These are designed to be refilled with your favorite e-juice.

BOOST: A special feature found in some mods that allows the user to rapidly increase the power.

BOX MOD: A box-shaped Advanced Personal Vaporizer, capable of housing up to four batteries, and significantly higher power outputs, ranging from 20 to over 200 watts. Box mods are shorter (and generally more convenient) than a tube mod.

CART: Also, CARTRIDGE. Holds e-liquid. Usually (but not always) pre-filled, it attaches to the atomizer.

CARTOMIZER: A 2-in-1 atomizer and cartridge. Also CARTO

CLAPTON COIL: Named for the small-gauge wire resembling a guitar string (ah… Eric Clapton) that wraps around a larger gauge of wire.

CLEAROMIZER: A transparent cartomizer, usually holding about 3 oz. of e-juice.

CLOUD BOMBING: The decidedly uncool act of repeatedly blowing vapor clouds onto a nearby person.

CIGALIKE: E-cigarettes that resemble analog cigarettes. Also CIG-A-LIKE.

CLOUD: The amount of vapor production.

CLOUD CHASER: A vaper who seeks bigger and bigger clouds of vapor.

COIL JIG: A dance you do when you get a new APV. Also, a metal tool used in the process of rebuilding coils.

CUSTOM MOD: This is a DIY MOD created using mostly household items such as flashlights.

CUTOFF: A safety feature to prevent an e-cig from overheating. Generally cutoff time is about 15 seconds after a vaper takes a draw.

DECK: The flat area where the battery’s positive and negative connection posts lie, the deck is designed to keep e-liquid away from the battery connection.

DEWICK: This is the process of removing the wick from your atomizer, generally to alleviate the bad taste associated with a very new or very old atty.

DISPOSABLE E-CIGS: This is a non-rechargable e-cig intended to be disposed of after usage.

DIYers: Vapers who create their own e-juice. Also Do It Yourselfers.

DRAGON COIL: A build popular with cloud chasers, because of its increased cloud production with significant airflow. The wick is wrapped around the coil in this build.

DRAW: The process of inhaling vapor when the vaper puts his or her mouth on the e-cig mouthpiece. Also called TOOT, DRAG, or PULL.

DRIPPING: When a vaper drips his or her preferred e-liquid onto an atomizer prior to use.

DRIP TIP: The e-cig mouthpiece accessory that allows droplets of e-juice to be dripped directly to the atomizer or cartomizer, without the necessity of removing the mouthpiece.

DRY BURN: Firing an atomizer without e-liquid in order to burn off any e-liquid residue.

DRY HIT: Taking a pull off your e-cig without realizing you’re out of e-liquid.

DUAL COIL: Another favorite among cloud chasers. These are atomizers, clearomizers, glassomizers, or cartomizers with two coils in lieu of just one. The benefit is that dual coil units give off more vapor, the downside is that dual coils tend to suck up more battery life.

E-HOOKAH: A hookah attachment that vaporizes e-liquids.

ELECTRONIC CIGAR: This is an e-cig designed to look and feel like a Cuban cigar. Paired with the right e-liquid, E-CIGARS can satisfy the cravings of traditional cigar smokers.

E- LIQUID: The liquid used in an e-cigarette to deliver flavoring and or nicotine generally made from either PG or VG, otherwise known as VAPE JUICE, ELIQUID, E LIQUID, E JUICE, E-JUICE, EJUICE, JUICE, LIQUID, SMOKE JUICE.

GLASSOMIZER: A clearomizer with a glass tank in lieu of a plastic tank.

GOOSE NECK: An extended gooseneck-shaped (i.e., long, curvy) mouthpiece. Custom options come in a variety of colors, shapes, styles, and materials.

G.R.A.S.: Generally Recognized As Safe, a designation by the FDA. Also GRAS.

GURGLING: The sound PVs make when too much vape juice is added. Also a sound babies make – but please, don’t let your babies vape.

HEATSINK: Fins or other protrusions from an atomizer, APV, or MOD, specially designed to rapidly dissipate heat.

HEAT STEEPING: Speeding up the steeping process by placing e-liquid in hot water or a warm environment.

HIGH RESISTANCE: An atomizer used for high voltage vaping.

HIGH VOLTAGE: A vaping device that operates at 3.8 volts or higher.

HIT: Inhaling vapor. Also, INHALE.

HOT SPOTS: When coils are wrapped poorly or unevenly, this can result in areas of the coil which glow, often resulting in dry hits.

HV MOD: A mod with a boost or a dual battery to allow for vaping with higher power.

JUUL-ING: Slang term for vaping – often used when vaping with one of JUUL’s devices. Also, Juuling.

LEAKING: Also see LEAKER. This is when e-juice leaks from the bottom of the atomizer, clearomizer, or glassomizer, which can cause the battery to short out, or damage to the device.

LED: Light Emitting Diode, otherwise known as the little light on the end of your e-cig to simulate the warm glow of a burning cigarette. Also lets you know when your battery is about to die.

LI-ION: A rechargeable Lithium Ion battery.

LOW RESISTANCE: Coils build below 1.5 ohm, which produces higher levels of vapor, at the expense of shorter battery life.

LUNG INHALE: A method frequently used by cloud chasers where vapor is inhaled directly into lungs. Also popular with high voltage users.

MANUAL: An old-school vaping device that requires a button to be pressed before producing vapor.

MG STRENGTH: Milligrams (mg) of nicotine per milliliter (mL), otherwise known as mg/m. Ranges from 0% – 5.2%

MOD: Unlike a cigalike, a vaporizing unit with variable wattage and/or voltage, as well as replaceable batteries. Also known as APV (Advanced Personal Vaporizer), MODS.

MOUTH INHALE: This inhalation is most common, and most similar to the way cigarettes are smoked. The vaper inhales vapor into the mouth, and then to the lungs, which results in a stronger mouth hit and more flavor. Also called FRENCH INHALE.

NIC-JUICE: E-juice that contains nicotine. Also NICJUICE, NIC JUICE. NICOTINE LIQUID, NICOTINE.

NRT: Also called NICOTINE REPLACEMENT THEPAPY.

NOOB: A vaping newbie. Generally vaping has a very quick learning curve, so most vapers are only considered noobs for the first week or two.

PASSTHROUGH: A vaping device that plugs into a USB port of a computer, power pack, or charger. A device touting PASSTHROUGH CAPABILITIES or that is PASSTHROUGH CAPABLE means it may be used for vaping while it is connected to the cable or charging.

PEN: A vaping device that looks like a pen.

POD MOD: A Personal Vaporizer that uses pre-filled pods of vape juice.

POLY-FIL: Filler used in cartomizers and cartridges.

PRIMING: Prior to utilizing a new vaping device, vapers add a few drops of e-juice and let it soak in for a 1-5 minutes in order to allow the e-juice to saturate the wick before usage.

PV: Personal vaporizer. Also known as VAPE PEN, JUUL, E-CIG, ECIG, E CIG, E-CIGARETTE, ECIGARETTE, E CIGARETTE, VAPE, VAPES, VAPORIZOR, E-NIC, E NIC, ENIC, PEN STYLE, SMOKELESS CIGARETTE, E-SMOKE, E SMOKE, ESMOKE, ELECTRONIC CIGARETTE

PG: Propylene glycol. The odorless, tasteless, colorless liquid preservative with which to deliver nicotine and flavoring in e-juice. Creates a satisfying vapor, but may cause sensitivity in some users.

STARTER KIT: An all-in-one package of vaping supplies for new vapers, including an e-cigarette, atomizer, charger, and generally a variety of e-juice cartridges.

STOVETOP COIL: A favorite among cloud chasers, the stovetop coil has a broad heating surface which resembles the burners on a stove.

SWEET SPOT: The perfect balance of voltage, wattage, e-juice vaporization, and resistance to create a highly satisfying vape for an individual vaper. Everybody’s sweet spot is different.

TANK: A cartridge that holds e-liquid, often used with a cartomizer or atomizer, which holds a larger quantity of e-liquid than cartridges containing filler.

THROAT HIT: The sensation of vaping in the throat. Also, KICK.

TOPPING OFF: Adding additional e-juice to a cartridge, cartomizer, or tank that already contains some e-juice, in order to fill it to the top.

VAPE/VAPING: The process of inhaling flavored e-liquid through an e-cigarette device, creating vapor. The term “vape” is credited to Phil Ray, a computer pioneer back in the late seventies and early eighties, who created a device to inhale vaporized nicotine. While Phil Ray’s device was a dud, his vernacular lives on.

VAPER: A person who vapes.

VAPOR: What vaping devices such as vape pens and cigalikes produce. Also known as E-SMOKE, CLOUDS.

VG: Vegetable glycerine. A hypoallergenic e-liquid base that creates bigger clouds than PG.

WATTS: The amount of heat or WATTAGE that your atomizer coil requires in order to vaporize a specific e-juice.

WICK: A piece of cording made of cotton, silica, fiberglass, ceramic, or other materials used to deliver the e-juice to the e-cigarette coil.