Cash, Culture, Clouds: The History Of The Vaping Community

Cash, Culture, Clouds: The History Of The Vaping Community

When some people think of vaping, they think of an electronic cigarette (a substitute for combustible traditional cigarettes) or they think of “that annoying thing where it smells like cake, but there’s no actual cake. It’s just some random person who looks like a dragon.” In spite of this, there is so much more to vaping and the vaping community.

In 1963, Herbert Gilbert had filed a patent for ​​“a safe and harmless means for and method of smoking” (U.S. Pat. No. 3,200,819). Gilbert’s creation would be forgotten for nearly 40 years until 2003 when Hon Lik from Shenyang, Liaoning, China filed a patent for what is now the modern e–cigarette. In 2004, the very first e-cigarette was released in Shenyang, China; the Ruyan which is similar in construction to the modern e-cigarette (e-liquid vaporized through a heating element powered by a battery).

Lik’s open patent allowed manufacturers to get innovative with their new devices. This is why the modern e-cigarette comes in many different sizes, shapes, and colors. This creativity led to devices that were capable of firing hotter and producing more vapor due to “sub-ohming”. Sub-ohming means “below one ohm of resistance,” and that is exactly what it sounds like. Its lower resistance against the power of the battery makes the vapor come out hotter with bigger clouds. The vapor production is similar to a hookah’s massive smoke clouds, but it comes from a device that fits perfectly in your hands and pocket. 

People wanted big clouds; these cloud chasers made sub-ohming fun with vape competitions. First, competitions were held at vape shops and were called “cloud competitions,” or cloud comps. The vaping community was so enticing and alluring; there was a vape shop at every corner as everyone saw an opportunity to have fun, make plenty of income and be a part of the community. Vape shops were everywhere, and we’re not talking about smoke shops; these shops were strictly dedicated to vaping and vaping only. 

Generally, two people competed at a time and blew the biggest cloud they could. Judges would decide who blew the biggest cloud in that round. The winner would move onto the next round until there was only one person left which made them the winner of the cloud comp. But just like everything in vaping, the limits were pushed and competitions evolved to more than just blowing “clouds”.

Trick competitions were the new big hit. Participants would do all kinds of wild and mesmerizing tricks such as blowing massive “O” rings, blowing O’s through O’s, creating clouds that look like a jellyfish, blowing multiple O’s rapidly, and much more. These competitions, just like cloud comps, had judges evaluating each individual performance until there was one winner.

The majority of the vape industry started and resided in California. Not long after federal regulations, California implemented harsher laws and regulations which put a damper on all of the vape community’s fun. 

There was a point in time when you would see another person vaping, and you would pull your vape out of your pocket and do a little wave or a subtle head nod. Now you see someone else vaping, and you barely want to make eye contact. However, many people still enjoy vaping throughout the world. Vaping is still very popular in Europe along with many states in the US. We are in another phase of vaping with many people reverting back to disposables. Much like the hookah community, the vaping community is more than happy to get newer members the help they need (generally on online forums and groups). As a “dinosaur,” in the vaping community, it brings me a lot of joy to see a sense of community still to this day. I’m excited to see what the vaping community will turn into down the line.

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