It all started around 2006, a time when the 2nd generation
e-cig was making waves on internet media and the first
factories were grinding them out on mass production. I was a
smoker then, so it was just out of curiosity that I bought
Oh, but I can't start this history without paying homage to the
startup Mr Hon
Mr Hon is credited with the first mass produced device that
mimicks a real cigerette. His first attempt used ultrasound
(instead of heat) to produce vapour, was not successful and his
company switched to using heat (from a coil) instead.
Unfortunately (for him) he ended up patenting the first
) instead of
the second (heat) device. Other companies (in china) jumped at
the oppurtunity and started mass rolling out thier copies of
what is essentially what you see today - a coil of wire heating up a wick
drenched with e-liquid.
The e-liquid itself is a basic
additive/preservative used by the food industry and thus not
His company, then called Ruyan, put out their first product
resembling a traditional cigarette to the world at large (the
Ruyan V8) in 2006. (This was two years after selling some
e-cigars since 2004).
Over time, wether due to poor marketing or otherwise, Ruyan/SBT
could not compete with the multitude of copycats and so began a
downward spiral which ended up with them selling out to a group
International Limited in 2007, which in turn sold
the intellectual property rights to Imperial Tobacco
Back to 2006.
Okay, so I bought the Ruyan V8, a stick-battery attached
to what was supposed to look like a cigarette but was obviously
too thick. The first puff was very memorable, but like all
devices (and even today), if you puff at it too many times, the
performance degrades. Back then, the reliability was ten times
worst. The only thing which I never (nor ever) forget was the
taste of Ruyan e-liquid. And even today it is still my
favorite. The mixture of tobacco and vanilla (plus something
else), must still be a trade secret, because I still cannot
find anything that tastes like it. The closest you can get to
this taste is Dekang's DK4 (formerly RY4).
About a year later, the market is now flooded with a basic
lookalike design but with the atomiser shrunk to a tiny tip
inside a mouthpiece which fits over a battery which is now
thinner and actually resembles a slightly enlarged cigarette. I
was ordering from all sorts of companies, mainly from asia.
At this time period two major companies made their mark. One
was called DSE, which was famed for it's 'tasting' atomiser,
the long bore 901. the other was Joyetech, renowed for the
reliable 501 atomiser and ultimately it's thread size which has
become the most popular standard.
This was also the heyday of the 'Automatic' devices, which did
not require a button to be pressed as you drew. But 'Autos'
quickly became outdated because of their leaking problems.
I had a bin full of autos, I regarded them as disposable.
China's highly competitive e-cig industry and weak Yuan (back
then) kept prices low. Battery charging was still a USB dongle
type charger which you screwed the battery thread into. Battery
life was so short that there was a thing known as a
'passthrough', basically a converter than you plugged straight
into a usb outlet with your atomiser at the other end. And if
you weren't careful, an LR (low resistance atomiser) would draw
too much current and burn out you computer's power circuit. In
fact, battery life was 'too' low, so manufacaturers had to lie
about their estimates about number of puffs per charge. A
custom they still practice today.
After another year, you could buy disposal e-cigs which by this
time are actually the real size of cigarettes. Little did these
companies know that they were getting off on the wrong foot.
Today, the PV world has segragated real cigarettes from
Personal Vaporisers. The majority of sellers and punters are
trading devices which don't look anything like a cigarette.
Even though Ruyan must have spent heavily in R&D, it was
their competitors who were the one's innovating the products.
Even today, the Ruyan brand is rarely seen or heard of even in
the forums. The overall components have not fundamentally
changed but the designs, methods and mechanisms have each made
The first innovation was surrounding the wicking material
around the coil (instead of just touching the tip). This was
liquid absorbant material in addition to the wick which is
already threaded through the coil. This whole unit was called a
Cartomiser which was either disposable or refilled by dripping
more e-liquid on the outer wick from the top. The outer wick
also had to have a 'tunnel' through which the air and vapour
mixture could flow from the coil (at the bottom) to the top. A
less known company that patented this was Gamucci in 2007, but
it was Boge, a sister company of Dekang that popularised this
concept to what were still 'disposable' e-cigs.
Probably the most important leap was the standardisation of the
the 510 thread and big batteries that attached to it. The
batteries are almost always lithium which can supply the
required power. These ranged from 14450 to 18650 of which the
latter became the most popular. These days the battery unit
might not even be replaceable as some manufacturers prefer to
customise their own sizes internally. Hobbyists would make
their own 'Box' mods as would manufactures, with the latter
adding circuitry with extra functions (see later).
Two things were innovated and immediately caught on at this
time. The first were ClearoMisers, i.e atomisers surrounded by
a tank of liquid instead of padding, so dripping becomes
unneccessary. These models were later widened and became known
as the modern day 'Tank'.
The other big leap were 'VV' mods, i.e variable voltage big
battery mods. These were big battery mods with added circuitry
to change the voltage. By changing the voltage you are also
changing the current and power. So some devices would add
functionality of either changing the voltage, current or
By the end of this period, the 'traditional' e-cig lookalike
(resembling a real cigarette) has already been forgotten, and
the landscape of product manfacturers for mods, atomisers and
e-liquids, have spread to other countries other than china.
dominate today's e-cig world are MOD, TANK, XXXw(atts), KIT,
and possibly TEMPERATURE.
E-liquid has had the least changes, the most notable that more
VG is used relative to PG.
Most of the innovation has focused on tank designs, atomiser
designs and the electronics of the mod delivering the
A branching out of DIY atomiser heads (where the user replaces
the coil) known as RBAs and further divided into RDAs and
Atomiser designs (non-rebuildable) have evolved from a single
coil+wick pressed against a soaking material to dual-coils and
quad-coils which are wrapped completely with wick. Airflow has
also changed from surface feed to a 'through' feed into the
middle of the coil tunnel.
Coil material is also changing from tiny thin coils to thicker
coils with more mass and surface area, with various types of
metal, some of which can be termperature controlled.
All this requires more power, hence the need for dual batteries
or custom lithium batteries.
Even standard battery sizes (18650s) themselves have to be
specified to accomodate for increased power drain (typically
50W). Circuits inside the mod can redistribute the power for up
to 100-300W. All of this multiplication of coils, mass and
power is in aim for more vapour production per puff. It is the
equivalent of vaping say 5 to 10 first generation e-cigs in one
landscape having almost being completely taken over by high
power for more vapour enthusiasts have manufacturers catering
for the mainstream Direct-to-Lung (DL) users. It used to be
that devices were a replacement (if not a a cure) for
ex-smokers who take in vapour with Mouth-To-Lung (MTL) puffs.
MTL has a limit on strength and volume per puff while DL takes
in much more volume with increased air-flow. This produces
perhaps 10 or 20 times more clouds while keeping the atomiser
cool (from burning). Not many newbies are aware of the DL
method of vaping, thus get disappointed as most modern devices
perform dismally when used with MTL puffs. Some companies are
trying to cater for both, marking thier atomisers as such but I
have yet to experience a succesful device for MTL which is not
More popular now are 'pod' systems which re-shape the
tank+removable_atomiser into a pod that plugs into the battery