Who Really Invented The Electronic Cigarette?

electronic cigarette
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Stop Smoking With The Electronic Cigarette


Who really invented it? That’s a great question that can truthfully be answered, “Herbert A. Gilbert, of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.” It’s totally surprising, but it’s true. An American engineer actually filed a patent for his “Smokeless Non-Tobacco Cigarette” in 1963, and the corresponding US Patent Number 3200819 was issued for it in 1965. So, what ever happened to Mr. Gilbert’s electronic cigarette? Reviewing the patent abstract and diagram, it’s clear to see that the time had not yet come for an electronic cigarette to capture enough popularity to succeed. Remember, in 1963 the dangers of tobacco smoke were not a concern to the general population of smokers. Deep research had not been conducted and governmental health agencies had not made pronouncements regarding the toxicity of over 4,000 chemicals and 42 known carcinogens in tobacco smoke in 1963. People would have had no interest in an electronic cigarette because they didn’t know their tobacco cigarettes were killing them. Not yet.

What Did Mr. Gilbert’s Electronic Cigarette Invention Include?

The electronic cigarette Mr. Gilbert patented was described, in his own words, in the following manner, “…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.” That is a perfect description of an electronic cigarette today, and it is fascinating to learn that such a similar electronic cigarette was designed and patented forty years before Ruyan’s 2003 electronic cigarette hit the world market, starting in China. Here are a few more prophetic words in Mr. Gilbert’s description of his electronic cigarette invention, “… a further object is to insulate the heat source so that the “cigarette” may be held in the fingers without discomfort to the user’s hand.”  Once again, that is a perfect description of any electronic cigarette on the market today, and one that could easily be used to draw a sensible conclusion by anyone unfamiliar with an electronic cigarette.

Was Mr. Gilbert’s Electronic Cigarette The Only One Patented In The US?

Perhaps more surprising than discovering that Mr. Gilbert patented an electronic cigarette in 1963 is the fact that over sixty other, similar US Patents have been issued since then. Electronic cigarette patent holders include, among others, major US tobacco companies and pharmaceutical companies.  The fact that a Chinese inventor actually brought the electronic cigarette into production and onto the world marketplace is particularly interesting. There is a huge population of cigarette smokers in China, and the resulting national health concerns may have brought Ruyan’s electronic cigarette more attention and support in China than the long list of inventions received in the US. Smokers all over the world are benefitting from the electronic cigarettes manufactured in China and shipped internationally, and there is a world-wide following that is growing in numbers and in strength. The electronic cigarette has changed the lives of countless tobacco smokers by providing a smokeless alternative to the dangers of tobacco smoke. Mr. Gilbert may not be reaping the benefits of his 1963 patent of an electronic cigarette, but he would undoubtedly be gratified to see that millions of former smokers who are now electronic cigarette users are deriving benefit and pleasure from his idea today.

What Is The Real Benefit Of An Electronic Cigarette?

The benefit of an electronic cigarette today is primarily two-fold.  First, consistent use of an electronic cigarette as a substitute for tobacco cigarettes is the best way to avoid toxic tobacco smoke, the basic source of carcinogens and bodily harm caused by tobacco. And second, an electronic cigarette provides great pleasure. That’s a basic fact of life for a former smoker, proven over and over by each tobacco smoker who picks up an electronic cigarette and gives it a try. Former smokers who get started using an electronic cigarette will almost always say that it’s a terrific idea and a great alternative to tobacco cigarettes. They can get their nicotine delivered through an electronic cigarette, and enjoy the oral and tactile experience, too. Nobody would say that about nicotine gum or nicotine patches. They are simply no fun at all. Back when Mr. Gilbert patented his electronic cigarette there were no nicotine gums or patches, and his invention would have been the only smoking alternative on the market. Today, an electronic cigarette has more competition, but it also provides plenty of options that Mr. Gilbert probably never even dreamed of in his original plans. For example, the huge selection of electronic cigarette flavorings available online today, from candied apple to Zanzibar coffee and literally thousands of others in between, would stun and amaze him, no doubt. The vast selection amazes most new electronic cigarette users as well. Mixing just the right strength of liquid nicotine with one or more exotic liquid e cigarette flavors gives electronic cigarette users options for enjoyment that are unlimited and unprecedented. Although it’s hard to believe that it took forty years to say that Mr. Gilbert’s patented “smokeless non-tobacco cigarette” is an idea whose time has come, the popularity of the electronic cigarette on the market today provides ample proof.



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