Who Invented Electronic Cigarettes?

It’s hard to believe that the on-trend habit of vaping electronic cigarettes has been around for almost fifteen years! The invention of the modern e-cigarette was created back in 2003 by a Chinese pharmacist named Hon Lik. It is no wonder that most e-cigs are still being made in China today. Electronic cigarettes were first sold in 2004 and since that time their global use has risen exponentially. British and Americans are some of the biggest users, and most are still using the original ‘look-alike’ design. The ‘look-alike’ e-cigarettes imitate the visual look and tactile feel of a tobacco cigarette which made them initially popular with regular cigarette smokers. But things have moved on since 15 years ago in a big way. Now a substantial sub-culture of vapers has been on the scene for years. They have redefined some familiar words to describe their recreational habit of choice.

A whole new language for eCigs

New terms have entered the vaper vocabulary, such as ‘vaping’ instead of smoking. And a ‘tank’ is not an armoured vehicle used by the army, nor is it a home for your tropical fish. What? You put a ‘tank’ in your mouth and inhale? Funny imagery. And those who remember the sixties will think of a ‘mod’ (as opposed to a rocker) to be a cool, young dude in a slim-fitting suit riding a scooter in Brighton. If you are reading this and you were born before the heady days of Beatlemania, just ask someone from that generation to describe the ‘mods’. So it may come as a surprise to you e-cig vapers who prefer tanks and mods that the good old ‘look-alikes’ are still the most popular way to enjoy nicotine electronically! The good news is that the popularity of using electronic cigarettes, whether they are look-alikes, tanks, or mods, has helped many people of all ages and backgrounds to reduce the health risks caused by smoking tobacco. The dangerous stuff like tars and other chemicals found in normal cigarettes, which can harm the lungs and heart, are not used in the production of e-cigs.


The NHS works very hard in getting the important message across to smokers that reducing or quitting smoking altogether is essential for a longer and healthier life. One may ask why doesn’t the NHS prescribe an alternative to smoking, such as e-cigs, to assist people in kicking the tobacco habit. It would save money and lives all around. However, this might be a controversial step too far because nicotine that is extracted from the tobacco plant is used in e-cigs, and it is an addictive substance. E-cigarette legislation is debated in many countries. A European directive of 2016 set standards for e-liquids, vaporizers, ingredients and child-proof e-liquid containers. In the same year, the US FDA extended its regulatory power to include e-cigarettes. There is a complicated overlap in the laws regulating tobacco and medical drugs. In other words, it is still up to the adult individual to decide whether to smoke or to vape or even do both, as many do in the UK. A recent survey indicates that about 60% of UK e-cigarette users are still smoking regular cigarettes, but the other 40% are ex-smokers, which must be a plus.

There are around 500 brands of e-cigarettes sold in vape shops, supermarkets and many e-cig products are easily purchased online. Global sales are in excess of US$7 billion. The Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik should recognised by the NHS for his invention and rightly proud of the industry he started. But he’s probably not very popular with cigarette manufacturers!

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