A lighter is a portable device which generates a flame, and can be used to ignite a variety of items, such as fireworks, cigarettes, campfires, gas stoves or candles. It consists of container from metal or plastic, filled with a flammable liquid or compressed gas, a means of ignition to produce the flame, and some provision for extinguishing the flame. Alternatively, a lighter can be powered by electricity, using an electric arc or heating element to ignite the target. The first lighters were converted flintlock pistols that used gunpowder. In 1662 a Turkish traveller named Evliya Çelebi visited Vienna as a member of an Ottoman diplomatic mission and admired the lighters being manufactured there: "Enclosed in a kind of tiny box are tinder, a steel, sulphur and resinous wood. When struck just like a firearm wheel the wood bursts into flame. This is useful for soldiers on campaign."
One of the first lighters was invented by a German chemist named Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner in 1823 and was often called Döbereiner's lamp. This lighter worked by passing flammable hydrogen gas, produced within the lighter by a chemical reaction, over a platinum metal catalyst which in turn caused it to ignite and give off a great amount of heat and light. Using Carl Auer von Welsbach's flint, companies like Ronson were able to develop practical and easy to use lighters. In 1910, Ronson released the first Pist-O-Liter, and in 1913, the company developed its first lighter, called the "Wonderlite", which was a permanent match style of lighter.
During WWl soldiers started to create lighters of empty cartridge cases. During that time one of the soldiers came up with a means to insert a chimney cap with holes in it to make it more windproof.
The Zippo lighter and company were invented and founded by George Grant Blaisdell in 1932. The Zippo was noted for its reliability, "Life Time Warranty" and marketing as "Wind-Proof". Most early Zippos used naphtha as a fuel source.
In the 1950s, there was a switch in the fuel of choice from naphtha to butane, as butane allows for a controllable flame and has less odour. This also led to the use of piezoelectric spark, which replaced the need for a flint wheel in some lighters and was used in many Ronson lighters.
In modern times most of the world's lighters are produced in France, the United States, China, and Thailand.