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E-Cigarettes came bounding on the scene some 8-10 years ago; they epitomized everything wonderful about anti-smoking and technology. They are a safe, economical and psychologically effective alternative to the monstrosity that is tobacco. But just because we have begun to understand the significance of E-cigarettes, doesn't mean they haven't been around for much longer. Electronic cigarettes have existed for over half a century!
In 1963, Herbert A. Gilbert became the first known person to announce and patent what he named a "smokeless non-tobacco cigarette." Gilbert was light-years ahead of the times, seeing as he was knowledgeable and vocal about the dangers of tobacco use, both first hand and second hand. His patent described the way the E-cigarette operated by replacing the burning paper and tobacco with heated, flavored, moist air. His concept was more psychological than chemical - the E-cigarette did not contain nicotine then- because he believed it was important for society in general to quit smoking.
Unfortunately for Gilbert, his attempts to commercialize the product failed and his invention fell into anonymity. People were more than happy chain smoking their way through life and there was simply no market or technology for such a product. Today, Herbert Gilbert is credited with being the first individual to patent an E cigarette, but it isn't his patent that made it to the big leagues years later.
In 2003, Chinese Pharmacist Hon Lik invented and patented the world's first commercialized E-cigarette. Lik's cigarette contained varying quantities of nicotine and came at a time when the global anti-smoking campaign was taking off full throttle. By mid-2004, his design was manufactured and sold in China; a few months later it went international. Lik had been inspired to develop E-cigarettes after he watched his father die of lung cancer.
He used the experience to motivate himself to pursue a solution: a nicotine-based tobacco-free cigarette that gave smokers the idea that they are smoking a cigarette, without the chemical and tar damage to their internal organs. Unlike Gilbert, Hon Lik was financially supported by the pharmaceutical company he worked for; they pooled money into this invention and encouraged the process.
By 2005, E-cigarettes had spread to Europe; the incessant smoking habits of most Europeans were already a task for their respective health departments. The support that E-cigarettes received helped catapult them into the limelight and encouraged more of the population to make the switch. By early 2006, E-cigarette sales in Europe were through the roof, enough to make the Americans sit up and take notice. As early as April 2007, E-cigarettes were being sold in great quantities in America and being bought at even greater rates.
Despite the wonders such publicity was working, E-cigarettes were still not recognized or supported by any major health organizations. On the contrary, they weren't receiving any publicity that added scientific validity to their merits. People still kept buying them anyway.
It was in late 2007 that the World Health Organization took notice and referred to the E-cigarette in an official statement. The WHO refused to classify E-cigarettes as chemically viable products, going so far as to ban E-cigarettes being described as devices used for smoking cessation. This got the international speculation started and by 2008, health departments in New Zealand, Australia and Canada began to carry out studies to observe the possible merits of the E-cigarette.
Tests showed that while there were no known benefits of E-cigarettes, the chemicals present in them were non-toxic and harmless. More importantly, the E-cigarettes seemed to be remarkably less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. These results didn't do much for the negative publicity E-cigarettes were getting. In 2009, the governments of Australia and Canada officially banned E-cigarettes and the United States prohibited all imports without official registration.
No amount of state authority, however, would deter the manufacturing and pharmaceutical firms invested in the E-cigarette. In the United States alone, in 2009 there were multiple lawsuits filed by American companies against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These firms banded together to create a union-like organization known as the Electronic Cigarette Association (ECA). The ECA was dedicated to fighting the FDA and making sure all trials and legal proceedings remained unprejudiced in favor of scientific committees.
The FDA was convinced that the lack of scientific evidence suggested that E-cigarettes had the potential to be health hazards and that the government based ban on imports meant that any E-cigarettes sold would be mislabeled due to lack of bylaws. Many states, such as California, banned the import and sale of E-cigarettes purely on the grounds that a lack of state regulation rendered all E-cigarettes illegal.
The state of New Jersey went so far as to put a ban on public use of E-cigarettes, afraid that people would go against government regulation if they saw other members of the population smoking them.
None such prohibitions proved to be fruitful, since organizations like the ECA were right there rallying in favor of E-cigarettes. Eventually, independent studies were published that stated that there was absolutely no cause to worry about the potential harmfulness of E-cigarette use. Most organizations were proven quite conclusively wrong by such studies, but as international health administration goes, lack of evidence is never a good enough reason.
Since 2013, not much has changed. E-cigarettes are still discouraged by the WHO and FDA, but they are more popular than ever among the masses. They are sold throughout Europe and the U.S and manufacturers are making millions off their sales. It seems that smokers really are feeling the benefits and they've become impervious to opposition.