Many people wonder about who actually invented the electronic cigarette. Most don’t know, while others would claim it is Hon Lik from China. But in 1963, Herbert A. Gilbert filed his patent on a smokeless non-tobacco cigarette. Two years later his patent was accepted. The whole patent issue becomes somewhat complicated when you consider new technology and different designs, but what is clear is that 46 years ago Herbert submitted the idea of a smokeless cigarette to the United States Patent Office. Here is an excerpt:

“The present invention relates to a smokeless non-tobacco cigarette and has for an object to provide a safe and harmless means for and method of smoking by replacing burning tobacco and paper with heated, moist, flavored air; or by inhaling warm medication into the lungs in case of a respiratory ailment under direction of a physician.”

Herbert….I’m telling the FDA you said that 🙂

View the PDF of Herbert’s Smokeless Non-Tobacco Cigarette

Does this look familiar?

New Smokeless Non-Tobacco Cigarette

Herbert A. Gilbert even got a plug the December 1965 issue of Popular Mechanics for his new smokeless non-tobacco cigarette invention:

Smokeless Non Tobacco Cigarette in Popular Mechanics


16 thoughts on “New Invention of 1963: The Smokeless Non-Tobacco Cigarette

  1. Wow – that’s a new one on me! I wonder how this might affect Ruyan’s court cases against other electronic cigarette companies – and, potentially, against Philip Morris, if PM buys out Ruyan.

    Kudos for digging this out! Any chance of sharing the source of the image and the info?

  2. It is very nice to be patriotic, but this article is misleading. Gilbert design AN electronic cigarette, not THE electronic cigarette.

    While Herbert Gilbert’s and Hon Lik’s devices share the same name, look similar on the outside and both use a battery, they actually function very differently and produce different results. Gilbert’s device is designed to heat air, which is then sucked through a flavored filter and produces no visible vapor. Lik’s design heats a liquid until it becomes a visible, inhaled vapor – which is how all of our e-cigarettes function today. Therefore, Lik is considered by most to be the inventor of the modern e-cigarette.

    Gilbert was definitely a man ahead of his time and on the right track, but he is not the inventor of modern e-cigarettes anymore than Sony is considered the inventor of the iPod just because they came up with the idea of a compact personal music player first. While both inventions are small, rectangular, deliver music through a headset and run on batteries, the Walkman and the iPod function very differently – just as Gilbert’s design functioned very differently from Lik’s – so no one considers Sony the inventor of the iPod.

    Hon Lik deserves the credit he gets for being the inventor of the e-cigarette design we use today.

  3. I have to call BS on this and not because Gilbert was an american. He invented the first E Cigarette and deserves the credit for it.
    It’s no different than a Soybean that was around 100 year ago. Sure they have made the soybean better and altered genetics to make it better than it was 100 years ago. However it’s still a soybean no matter how it’s grown or how it’s altered. I’ts still a SOYBEAN…. same with the Ecig.

    Just because the medical field got hold of his design and made a medical device out of it. It makes peoples lives better. Same as the Ecig. It gets people off the dangerous smoking gun that people drag around with them. Just because Lik’s Ecig puts out vapor you say it’s different. Its all on the same concept off the patent of Herbert Gilbert.. If not so why do we even have a patent office to protect the inventors of the world…

    1. Yea mr. Gilbert your the man! I never knew this about you and I been best friends with Ethan since 3rd grade and he never mentioned his grandpa held this patent. you should be getting a royalty you hold the patent, that’s what patents are for !! Hope all is well

  4. This info is a bit dated. E-cigs are widely avalbalie in the U.S. and are a great tool to help people who want to quit smoking. I haven’t lit up since January, 2011. Before buying, do your homework, because some models work very well and some are garbage. Just do an internet search for ECF Forum for tons of useful info.

  5. Also, can you really smoke them in non skmoing areas? I really doubt it, cuz you still blow out smoke. Maybe in the future when these become more common, but i bet you would get harassed by managers and other people because they don’t know what it is. Either way I can’t wait to get one of these VA:F [1.9.12_1141]please wait…

    1. Yes can and have. Actually you are not blowing out smoke at all, it just appears like you are. It is steam or water vapor. Guess it depends on the establishment in question tho.

  6. regardless of who invented it, I have gone from being a 2 to 4 pack a day smoker to a zero pack a day smoker overnight by the us of e-cig products. I have gone from buying premade cartomizer/atomizer products to rebuilding my own atomizer in a short few months of experamenting to find just the right balance of nicotine and vapor production. I have gone from spending 2 to 4 hundred per month on cigarettes to 30 to 50 dollars a month to get just the right blend of vapor/nicotine that i like which keeps me from running down to the store for a 5 dollar pack of death every time i crave nicotine. I started out on 24mg nicotine juice to now 18 mg juice and intend to systematicaly reduce nicotine intake through use of e-cig down to eventualy 0 nicotine. If indeed the goal of fda is to reduce public risk associated with burning of tabacco, this is a total no brainer to me. I can set nicotine levels very readily and easily as i graduate my dependance on nicotine all together down to zero. I have tried various methods available to quit smoking and they all lack the one thing that smokers crave. Something to physicaly put in their mouth and smoke. I can simulate every physical aspect of smoking a cigarette without the potential health risk associated with combustion of tabbacco. I can also control (MYSELF) the amount of nicotine I consume. These to me are nonreplaceable aspects of e-cigs which no other alternative to smoking offers. The indesputable evedince is on the table and the recent hearing before fda shows. NTR’s are clearly a safer alternative to real smoking. If e-cigs are singled out and banned as an alternative in favor of pharma and big tabacco I will have lost any remaining amount of lingering trust in the FDA alltogether.

    This single innovation has single handedly done for me what the other ntr’s have not been capable of. Simply because it totaly replaces every sensation i need to satisfy to get my nicotine fix.

  7. i don’t give a damn for those who telling themselves an amateur. Tsk. Mr. Gilbert was the first inventor, and not the chinese! Screw chinese. As expected, there were the land of imitators, stealing Mr. Gilbert’s invention. And to those who’s saying bullshit (and i know who you are) read your newspaper or watch it over CNN, Discovery Channel or National Geographic Channel, you stupid insulting mongrel.

    to Mr. Gilbert:
    i offer an infinity of thanks to you because my boyfriend stopped from smoking and changed. even though he has some withdrawals, or having cravings sometimes but he never pushes himself to smoke. and this is all thanks for your invention, Mr. Gilbert! 🙂

    Love and hugs,
    Miss Insulting Fernandez

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