The History of the E-Cigarette

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The history of the e-cigarette is a fascinating one and one that stemmed from a Chinese pharmacist and inventor, who smoked two packs of cigarettes a day, being determined not to die of cancer the way his father did. He set out to find an alternative.


The electronic cigarette, alternatively known as an e-cig or e-cigarette, is an inhaler that looks like a regular cigarette but which uses a vaporizer that produces a pressurized jet of an aerosol mist that looks like real smoke. This vapor dilutes the nicotine by using propylene glycol, a food additive used in consumer products and drug treatments. The e-cigarette has many health advantages because it is tobacco free, ash free, tar free, carbon monoxide free and odorless.

Hon Lik, the Inventor

His education was in Chinese medicine using herbal remedies. He infused the propylene glycol with a flavoring and genuine nicotine to make it feel and taste like a genuine cigarette. He utilized a disposable cartridge in plastic which holds the liquid and provides a mouthpiece.


First introduced to the domestic market in China in May 2004, Lik’s company changed its name to Ruyan, which means “resembling smoking”, and began exporting in 2005-2006. In 2007, the company received the first international patent. These electronic cigarettes were introduced in the United States in 2006-2007.


Although Hon Lik and his company came up with a wide variety of flavors to entice smokers, it was felt that flavors attracted too many young people as well as other smokers. In June 2009, President Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which in part banned fruit and mint flavorings. In December 2009, NJOY announced that it was discontinuing all flavors in the United States except for the traditional and menthol tobacco ones.


The Ins and Outs of the Ecig: Older models of electronic cigarettes had three parts: a cartridge/mouthpiece to store the vaporized liquid, an atomizer to vaporize the liquid, and a power supply that operated the e-cig. Most e-cigs now come in two parts, one being a disposable cartridge with the atomizer combined into it, known as a “cartomizer.” Being disposable, a person no longer has to refill the cartridge but can unscrew the cartomizer, throw it away, and replace it with a new prepackaged cartridge that comes from the factory.

Many smokers appreciate having a device that also regulates the amount of included nicotine so they can start with a stronger strength and slowly work their way down to no nicotine.


About the Author

Jeanie Barcus is a writer and a stay at home mom of two rowdy boys. In her spare time, she loves finding new books to read (mostly from the “bestsellers” list, but occasionally from the discount bin!) and hikes with her husband in the surrounding areas.

7 Responses to The History of the E-Cigarette

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  6. Roy Rock

    Very interesting article, good to find out about the history behind it, since electronic cigarettes certainly seem to be taking off! Thanks for the read!

  7. Lindsay

    God bless his soul (Hon Lik). I can’t imaging what he must have gone through when his father died but it must have been tough on him. I’m sure his dad will be proud that his son has saved thousands of people from getting smoking related cancers and diseases. It’s a real accomplishment and we thank him for it.

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