How Vape Juice Became an International Industry


Around the world, tens of millions of people have quit smoking for good thanks to electronic cigarettes. Vaping has become so important – so quickly – that it sometimes feels like it’s been around forever. In fact, vaping has become an international phenomenon in just over a decade.

Vaping is not just something that has changed the lives of smokers and has been a major boon to public health; he also created an industry that now spans the world. In the United States alone, there are now tens of thousands of vape shops supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs – and with product sellers, there are manufacturers, too. Although most of the vaping equipment in the world is from China – as is the case with most consumer electronics – vape juice is made just about anywhere. A worldwide distribution network enables the purchase of JUUL in Australia, Dinner Lady in Canada and Naked 100 in the United Kingdom.

Let’s learn more about how vape juice has become an international industry.

Vaping originated in China

If you are a vaper, you probably know that the modern mass-produced electronic cigarette was invented by a Chinese pharmacist named Hon Lik. Although there were earlier attempts in the second half of the 20th century to create a safer cigarette, these attempts failed due to technology shortcomings and the inability to find investors. When Hon Lik invented his electronic cigarette, it was finally possible to create a battery-powered vaporizer that was similar in size and shape to a tobacco cigarette. Lik also had the benefit of working for a pharmaceutical company with the financial resources to turn Lik’s idea into a real product.

In the beginning, each e-cigarette was a roughly shaped device of a cigarette or pen that stored its e-liquid in disposable cartridges. If you owned an e-cigarette, you weren’t buying bottled vape juice – you were buying cartridges for the e-cigarette you owned. For Chinese e-cigarette managers, the flavor was almost an afterthought. Manufacturers were offering tobacco and menthol cartridges, and that was about it for a while. Eventually they started adding other flavors like cherry, vanilla, and coffee. Consumers loved that e-cigarettes allowed them to quit using tobacco products, but vaping was really about enjoying a satisfying, smokeless, alternative form of nicotine. As the vaping market got bigger, that was going to change quickly.

United States Becomes Biggest Vaping Market

Vaping quickly spread to almost all developed countries almost as soon as e-cigarettes became widely available. Nowhere, however, was this more true than in the United States. All over the country, small electronic cigarette companies have started to appear. These companies imported e-cigarette kits and cartridges from China, affixed their own labels, and sold them online and at physical locations such as kiosks in shopping malls. Some of America’s first e-cigarette companies eventually got pretty big – and meanwhile, Chinese vaping product makers were starting to launch rechargeable vaping devices under their own brands. Suddenly there was a market for bottled vape juice. At the same time, the demand for local sellers of vaping products started to increase. People wanted ways to buy vaping products and e-liquids locally instead of buying these items online and waiting for shipping. Vape shops have started to appear all over America.

Vape juice is a fairly simple product made up of vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, flavors and nicotine. All of these ingredients are readily available for anyone who wants them, which is why many American vape shops have started making and selling their own homemade e-liquids. Other entrepreneurs have launched e-liquid brands and sold their products online. Within a few years, some American e-liquid manufacturers became so popular that they were exporting their products to Canada, Europe and other regions. In a short time, vapers in places like the UK were importing their vaping gear from China and their vape juice from the US. Vape juice had really gone global.

Because there were more vapers in the United States than in any other region, the American leadership of the vape juice industry was virtually unchallenged during the early years of the 2010s. At one point there was probably hundreds of small and large e-liquid producers in the country, and a lot of companies were producing really innovative flavors.

By the end of the decade, however, most of these companies would have disappeared.

America abandons the leadership of the vaping industry

One of the reasons the US vaping industry grew as quickly as it did is that it was largely unregulated. As long as companies didn’t market e-cigarettes as smoking cessation products and only sell them to adults, they could basically do whatever they wanted. That, however, changed when the United States Food and Drug Administration stepped in and began regulating e-cigarettes as tobacco products in 2016. Apparently overnight the United States went from being a a country where vaping was only lightly regulated to a country that had perhaps the most draconian vaping regulations of any nation in which vaping was not outright banned.

The reason most American e-liquid manufacturers have gone out of business is because the law requires every manufacturer of “tobacco products” to submit an insanely expensive application to the FDA before putting a new product on the market. All e-liquid makers were required to submit these requests – one application for every product they made – by September 2020. Only the wealthiest e-liquid makers submitted requests for their products; the rest went bankrupt.

Regulators may have put most of America’s vape juice companies out of business, but e-liquid makers around the world aren’t really sad about it. The reduction in imports from the United States has made vapers in Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, New Zealand and elsewhere more willing than ever to seek out locally made vape juice – and manufacturers of vape juice. e-liquids from these countries have responded by creating some of the most unique flavor blends to emerge to date. Government regulation hasn’t been a good thing for America’s vaping community, but it has helped the vape juice industry become more of a global phenomenon than ever before.


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