E-cigs a 'consumer-driven' revolution born from a bad dream

Tue Jun 9, 2015 12:46pm EDT
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By Martinne Geller

LONDON (Reuters) - Before Hon Lik invented the e-cigarette, a device now shaking up the Big Tobacco industry, he was a pharmacist in China struggling to quit a two-to-three pack a day smoking habit.

Once in 2002, Hon forgot to remove a nicotine patch from his stomach before bed and had nightmares all night. He traced it to the continuous dose of nicotine and then realized it was precisely that steady release that made patches inadequate for him.

Without the sharp nicotine highs he got from smoking, he found there was no relaxation or stress relief.

Armed with a background in Oriental medicine, knowledge of mechanics and an interest in electronics, Hon set out to make something that would mimic smoking - without the deadly smoke.

His drive was galvanized further when his father, also a smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer shortly afterwards. He died in 2004.

"I believed that if I could use vapor to simulate cigarette smoke, this could help me," Hon told Reuters on Tuesday.

Thirteen years on from those nightmares, the 59-year-old stopped off in London after participating in a global summit in Warsaw on nicotine as the father of the most disruptive technology the industry has seen. He is also now employed by one of its biggest players, Imperial Tobacco Group, following Imperial's 2013 purchase of Hon's business.

Imperial, the world's fourth-largest tobacco company, will become a major e-cigarette player in the United States following its purchase of the Blu brand in a deal expected to close this week.   Continued...

Chinese inventor of the e-cigarette Hon Lik poses for a photograph in central London, Britain June 9, 2015. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth