For gadget aficionados, few activities are more fun than studying the iconic designs of the past. Though the vaping industry is still relatively new – modern vaping products have been on the market for less than 20 years – vaping has evolved so rapidly that the industry has already produced several iconic and influential product designs. Do you think that the JUUL is the first influential product that the vaping industry has produced? Think again; that device is just one example of where the first decade and a half of the industry’s evolution has taken us.
These are the most iconic product designs that the vaping industry has produced to date.
Ruyan V8 Pen-Style E-Cigarette
The Chinese company Ruyan – now owned by tobacco giant Imperial Tobacco – was the corporation that first patented and produced the electronic cigarette. Pictured is the Ruyan V8, a “pen-style” device first released in 2006. At that time, lithium-ion battery technology wasn’t quite ready to give us electronic cigarettes in the same small size as tobacco cigarettes, so the Ruyan V8 looked a bit like an oversized tobacco cigarette in a cigarette holder.
Like other early e-cigarettes, the Ruyan V8 stored its e-liquid in hollow plastic cartridges filled with wet sponges. When you used the V8, the e-liquid would trickle from the sponge to the heating coil via a steel mesh bridge. It wasn’t a perfect system, but it worked well enough that Ruyan manufactured the V8 for distribution in the United States and other markets – and that’s when the vaping industry was born.
V2 Cigs EX Series Cigalike
When e-cigarette technology was still new, the primary challenge for designers in the vaping industry was to develop products with the appropriate visual cues to alert consumers that those products related to smoking. At the same time, it was also important to create products attractive enough that smokers would feel comfortable using them in social settings. The V2 Cigs EX Series was the first e-cigarette to truly achieve both of those goals.
A forerunner of the pod vaping systems that are popular today, the V2 Cigs EX Series stored its e-liquid in disposable cylindrical cartridges that functioned as miniature tanks. The device had all of the convenience and performance features that vapers could possibly want, including cartridges with translucent windows, a 4.2-volt battery, better vapor production and an LED battery indicator – and it did all of those things in a sleek, cigarette-shaped package.
The V2 Cigs EX Series still represents the pinnacle of “cigalike” product design. It remains available in the e-cigarette kits section of the V2 Cigs UK website.
NJOY King Disposable E-Cigarette
What the V2 Cigs EX Series did for rechargeable cigalikes, the NJOY King did for disposable e-cigarettes. At the time of its release, the NJOY King was a revolutionary product because, from a physical standpoint, it looked and felt more like a tobacco cigarette than any product that had come before. The NJOY King was so light that you could let it hang from your lips like a tobacco cigarette. It even had a tip that was slightly squishy like a cigarette filter. NJOY constructed a distinctly cigarette-like brand image for the King and even packaged it in a clicky flip-top case reminiscent of a cigarette lighter.
The NJOY King really clicked with smokers, but the success was short lived. When companies like JUUL released cheaper and more appealing rechargeable e-cigarettes, the NJOY King suddenly looked rather outdated – and a bit too much like a real cigarette – on store shelves. The bottom fell out of the disposable e-cigarette market, and NJOY filed for bankruptcy protection in 2016. Eventually, the company was bought out of bankruptcy and resumed doing business.
ProVape ProVari Variable-Voltage Mod
In the history of the vaping industry, the ProVape ProVari is truly one of a kind. While most vaping hardware has always been made in China, ProVape was perhaps the only company ever to make vaping devices in the United States and to achieve worldwide renown for doing so. Costing over $200 for a full starter kit, the ProVari was truly an aspirational product for vapers. It was also the first vape mod with anything that current vapers would consider a basically modern feature set.
Consider what the ProVari competed with at the time of its release in the early 2010s. At that time, consumers essentially had two types of vaping products from which to choose. On one hand, they could buy cigalikes that often had poor vapor production, little battery life and limited flavor selections. On the other hand, they could buy mechanical devices that offered much more power but had no safety features whatsoever.
The ProVari was a revolutionary device because it offered regulated power delivery up to a user-selected maximum of 6 volts. It coupled that power delivery with an integrated circuit capable of detecting potential safety issues like a short circuit, an unsafe current or low battery voltage. Finally, vapers could enjoy performance and safety with a device that wasn’t made in a sweat shop.
The Chinese manufacturers of vaping products eventually developed cheaper devices with the features of the ProVari. ProVape, meanwhile, couldn’t legally release new vaping products in the United States after 2016 due to government vaping regulations. ProVape closed up shop in 2017, but the ProVari lives on in the memories of those who were lucky enough to own it.
JUUL Pod Vaping System
Originally released in 2015, the JUUL e-cigarette was the first vaping product to truly achieve critical mass in the United States. By the time of its release, smokers were generally aware that vaping existed and no longer needed the visual cue of a cigarette shape to know what vaping products were. Designers of vaping systems could focus on functionality and visual appeal without being constrained to the form factor of tobacco cigarettes.
With a shape resembling that of a USB thumb drive, the JUUL was a vaping device that immediately struck a chord with American smokers. The design was appealing enough not to cause awkwardness in social settings. At the same time, the JUUL symbolized a clear break from smoking because it didn’t look like a tobacco cigarette.
Before JUUL, the most successful companies in the vaping industry were valued at many millions of dollars. JUUL Vapor, on the other hand, received a valuation of several billion dollars along with a major cash infusion from tobacco giant Altria in 2018.