Where did e-cigarettes begin?

The modern e-cigarette was invented by chinese chemist Hon Lik. In 2003, his idea was making use of piezoelectric ultrasound-emitting element, using it to vapourise liquid containing nicotine, saturated with propylene glycol (PG). This modern e-cigarette produced a vapour similar to smoke, that can then be inhaled for a quick, cleaner nicotine hit. Hon Lik also suggested the use of propylene glycol (PG) to dilute the nicotine solution and encasing the newly born e-liquid in a disposable polymer cartridge which acts as a liquid reservoir and a barrier to the mouthpiece of the e-cigarette.

The modern e-Cig was first sold in the asian market May 2004, as a healthier smoking replacement and quitting tool. Golden Dragon Holdings (the company that employed Hon Lik at the time) decided on a name change to Ruyan (如烟), translated as Resembling smoking, and began exporting and selling e-cigarette and e-liquid products in 2005–2006 before obtaining a worldwide patent for the e-cigarette in 2007, which is why were only recently seeing them in the European market.
Various e-cigarette devices promoted by tobacco companies were launched in 2013, these include the Vype, Vuse, and MarkTen. Blu, a large e-cigarette manufacturer, also acquired Lorillard Inc, a tobacco business leader, in 2012.

This is not the birth of the e-cigarette though. The first, original old school electronic cigarette can be traced to Herbert A. Gilbert, in 1963 patented a device that produces a smokeless, tobacco-less cigarette, that included replacing combustible tobacco and papers with warmed, damp, flavoured vapour. This e-cigarette heated a nicotine solution and would produced vapour. Then in 1967, Herbert was approached by many corporations interested in producing the e-cigarette and e-liquids, but alas, it was never bought to mass market and vanished from the public shortly after 1967.