Ironically, in China, where around 50% of men smoke, the electronic cigarette wasn’t the hit everyone expected it to be. Even the best e-cigarette lacks a certain quality that appeals to all Chinese – it can’t be shared. In China, cigs are the perfect way to start a conversation, whether you get pulled over by a cop, or want to ask someone a favor. But their inventor believes the American and European markets are much better prospects anyway.
The first thing Hon Lik used to do in the morning was to light up a cigarette. He also smoked between lectures at the university where he studied Oriental medicine, in the lab, and even during lunch. He would go through two packs by sunset and burn a third one over dinner and drinks. He was a pretty hardcore smoker, but a tragic event inspired him to invent a less dangerous alternative to tobacco.
Hon’s father was also a very heavy smoker, and when he died of lung cancer, he set out to create a device that could satisfy the craving for nicotine and also be fun to use. In 2003 he got his first patent for the electronic device powered by lithium batteries, and introduced it on the market the following year. The company he worked for, Golden Dragon Holdings, was so confident his invention would prove a hit that it changed its name to Ruyan (meaning “like smoke”).
Hon Lik managed to quit smoking thanks to his revolutionary e-cigarette, but he still uses analogs to show off the benefits of his invention. He truly believes e-cigarettes are a safer way to deliver nicotine without the other thousands of harmful compounds. Now, he and other competing e-cigarette manufacturers in China are trying to introduce e-cigs to the rest of the world.