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The Story of E-Cigarettes

6th April 2015


E-Cigarettes in their modern guise were invented by a Chinese pharmacist called Hon Lik, a graduate of Liaoning College of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The reasons why he wanted to invent this device are extremely interesting to know, and it's a tale that reflects well on the concept of trade and innovation, the idea of a world where people should be able to freely develop new products to solve problems that older products have created. This is what innovation should do, they are the next step in an evolving technological society, and the best innovations always comes from real world experiences.

Hon Lik's father had died of lung cancer, and Hon was himself a smoker. So he decided to try and quit using nicotine patches. But these caused intolerable nightmares when he forgot to take them off before bed. During one difficult night he started to conceive of a different solution, one that gave nicotine but not the associated toxicities of cigarettes. Hon Lik was certainly not ignorant of biochemistry or the chemical composition of tobacco smoke, so he knew very well that the chemical environment of a burning cigarette was the central problem. Oxidation and excess heat in the process of combustion was driving the many natural and artificial compounds in the cigarette to become a toxic slew that also contained nicotine. Smokers, he could see plainly, were people who wanted merely the effect of the cigarette and the nicotine, not the toxic combustion products. So, since combustion occurs above a certain temperature, going below that temperature and vaporising a liquid would tick all the right boxes. After developing the idea, he patented it in 2003.

What is sad to know is that Hon Lik didn't make much money from his idea, which faced many unreasonable hurdles including early manufacturers not paying him a royalty and aggressive and hysterical media campaigns against his innovation citing alleged health risks, before his product could earn him very much.

With the potential to save millions of lives every year, and someone like his own father, we say that Hon Lik would be an excellent winner of a Nobel Prize, if there ever was one for Invention.

See more on this amazing man in the following links...