The Evolution of the Electronic Cigarette

With words like electronic cigarette, e-cigarette, personal vaporizer, electronic nicotine delivery system, vape and more, it’s easy to get lost in the terminology and progression of technology. Vaping has the exciting ability to be an industry all its own, but in many ways it is much like the electronics industry. There are constantly new, updated, and innovative technologies being designed and released. While this is exciting, it can also make it difficult to know what’s going on in the evolution of the industry, as it seems to be in continuous flux. Let’s take a quick look at the evolution of the electronic cigarette, into the vape products we know and love today.


The electronic cigarette was first developed in Beijing, China by Hon Lik, a 52 year old pharmacist. Hon Lik’s father died from lung disease as a result of smoking. As a smoker himself and an inventor, Hon Lik sought to find an alternative to cigarettes and the electronic cigarette was created in 2003.

The first electronic cigarette in the United States was designed to be the same size and shape as a traditional cigarette, and was known to the vaping community as a ‘cigalike’. These still come to mind when most people first hear about e-cigarettes. With Big Tobacco buying and developing cigalike brands, they can now be found in almost every gas station and convenience store.

Next came the cartomizer. The cartomizer looks like the end of a cigalike, but is a bit more functional. Unlike with cigalikes, you can fill the cartomizer with the e-juice of your choice. Once the cartomizer tanks came out, you were able to have the same e-juice, without having to refill after every few hits of your vape. At the same time the cartomizer was developing, batteries were also being designed to increase battery life and offer different appearances and functions to your vape.

The next exciting development in vaping came when tanks were released on the market. You no longer need a cartomizer. Instead, there is a small, replaceable coil that screws into the tank, providing the atomizer, coil and wick all in one small package. The upside to these new tanks include improved airflow and less waste. The downside is that they have a tendency to flood or dry hit. Yet, just like the electronic industry, a new style was born and quickly upgraded and improved upon. Batteries are now lasting all day, and tanks are allowing for more freedom and a simple process for filling and using your e-cigarette.

As vaping continued to grow in popularity, the ‘Big Bang’ of vaping happened. In a short period of time, less than two years, vaping went from cigalikes to people building their own home made vape devices, box mods that have batteries that can last for multiple days, building your own coils, variable wattage options, and much more. DNA chips for batteries, now offer variable power settings, and overheating protection. What was once a simple cigalike, now comes in all different shapes and sizes, with functionality customization that was unheard of a mere five years ago.

We don’t know what new innovations and directions this industry will go in in the future, but I’m excited to see. The beauty of the vape offered today is the seemingly unlimited ability to customize it to your liking. I believe it would be nearly impossible to find a vape setup and e-juice flavor that would not appeal to someone. Every day we see new success stories of people quitting smoking, by using vaping. Very rarely do two people end up with the exact same setup in these stories, but they were each able to find the vapor products that worked for them.

What Setup Did You Use to Quit Smoking?

Written by: Michelle Harnden

Tim Mechling

Tim is Mt Baker Vapor's resident creative weirdo. He writes, composes music, draws, designs, produces podcasts, investigates, and blows the trumpet for the Common Man.