Next time you see someone smoking in a nonsmoking area and you are just about to ask them to put it out, well here is one reason to do a double check first. An electronic cigarette looks almost exactly like a real cigarette and it is easy to mistake someone using an electronic cigarette for smoking a real cigarette. However, it is actually a battery operated device that allows one to inhale vaporized nicotine and simulates the experience of smoking a real cigarette.
In 1963, Herbert Gilbert patented “a smokeless non-tobacco cigarette”. In his patent Gilbert described how his device worked, by “replacing burning tobacco and paper with heated, moist, flavored air.” Gilbert’s device involved no nicotine, smokers of Gilbert’s device enjoyed flavored steam. Attempts to commercialize Gilbert’s invention failed and his product fell into obscurity. However, it deserves a mention as the earliest patent for an electronic cigarette.
Better known is the the invention of Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik, who patented the first nicotine based electronic cigarette in 2003. The following year, Hon Lik was the first person to manufacture and sell such a product, first in the Chinese market and then internationally.
Are They Safe?
Electronic cigarettes are no longer considered a smoking cessation tool as they were once promoted as being. Nicotine is addictive, however, e-cigs do not have the harmful tars that regular commercial cigarettes do contain but unfortunately they might have other harmful chemical ingredients included. Toxic substance found in an examination of e-cigs by the FDA included things like diethylene glycol, a toxic chemical used in antifreeze.
There is also controversy over how to regulate electronic cigarettes, age restrictions, and if they should or should not be included in smoking bans. Secondhand vapors could be just as bad as secondhand smoke. Some countries have banned the sale and marketing of e-cigs entirely.
In September 2010, the FDA issued a number of warning letters to electronic cigarette distributors for various violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act including “violations of good manufacturing practices, making unsubstantiated drug claims, and using the devices as delivery mechanisms for active pharmaceutical ingredients.”
A Booming Business
If electronic cigarettes do continue to remain legal in the United States and other countries, there are huge profits to be made. According to Electronic Cigarette Brands manufacturers make between $250 million to $500 million estimated annually and while that is a small portion of the $100 billion US tobacco market, a government survey found that 2.7% of U.S. adults had tried e-cigarettes by 2010, up from 0.6% a year earlier, the kind of statistics that potential trends are made of.