Over the course of nearly a decade, electronic cigarettes are finally penetrating a market dominated by traditional tobacco cigarettes and carving a niche for smokers looking to satisfy their cravings to smoke without exposing themselves to the dangers plaguing traditional tobacco. You may have seen a few people using such devices in places that restrict cigarette use. Because e-Cigarettes lack the combustibility of traditional cigarettes, hazards of exposure to second hand smoke and dangerous carcinogens are limited to only their analog counterparts. Being a digital cigarette means that it vaporizes a nicotine solution without the use of tobacco or the thousands of additives found in a traditional cigarette. Rather than be exposed to such byproducts as carbon monoxide, ash, tar, e-Cigarettes only give off a fine mist of vapor that’s proven safe. At a lower cost of entry than a carton of cigarettes, electronic cigarettes have become increasingly popular the world over for their re-usability, cost, as well as being a healthier alternative. With such popularization, how and when did electronic cigarettes come to be? Read on to find out.
In 2003, smoker Hon Lik of China set out on a journey to quit his tobacco addiction that had taken his father’s life some years ago. Smoking two packs a day, Hon’s legitimate concern to find a safer alternative became an overriding concern. His aim was to combat the dangerous and chemical filled traditional cigarette with a safer, natural alternative that mimicked the sensation of smoking a cigarette without harmful exposure to carbon monoxide, ammonia, and other additives. A herbalist by trade, Hon’s experience with ginseng and coconut oil as natural medicines led him to consider why a cigarette was so chemically addicting. Scientific studies have long since proven that the substance nicotine is responsible for addiction to cigarettes, Hon surmised that despite being true it doesn’t necessarily help that products like nicotine gum didn’t achieve the same popularity. He deduced that a certain culture of smoking surrounds the cigarette that it is just as much about the fixation of inhaling smoke socially that prompts many to continue using cigarettes.
The plume of smoke that comes from each and every exhale provided satisfaction to the smoker. While it’s true that nicotine is the overriding reason why smokers continue to smoke, the social dynamic can only intensify this habit. Hon decided that to create a similar experience would mean to keep nicotine levels at the same strength as a traditional cigarette sans tobacco and traditional additives. Knowing this, he set out to make the first electronic cigarette.
With his knowledge as an herbalist, Hon tried many different natural chemicals to replicate the feel of smoking a cigarette. After a fair amount of trial and error, he came across propylene glycol. This FDA-approved food additive has been around since the 1920s used in a variety of foods as well as such unorthodox means as fogging agents for fog machines. When heated, propylene glycol vaporizes into a cloud of smoke. Hon realized this potential as replicating the smoke plume of a traditional cigarette. He was half way there. The next step was to combine nicotine with propylene glycol so that the nicotine solution would also vaporize into a fine plume of smoke. Utilizing this concoction, the effects of smoking were apparent as an adequate smoke substitute. The nicotine infused propylene glycol solution satiates a cigarette user’s craving for nicotine by providing a satisfying throat hit without inhaling 5,000 chemicals.
Taking his product to an American Tobacco Expo in Las Vegas shortly thereafter, Hon was hit with dozens of Best in Show awards. The buzz of a tobacco-less cigarette began to spread. Those initially on the fence of trying one due to skepticism in its ability to mimic the feel of smoking were stunned to realize how true to life this product was. A smoking revolution soon came forth where critics sung its praises and companies followed suit by creating their own brands with incremental advancements to Hon’s electronic cigarette.
Since then, a new smoking culture has erupted in America and the world over as many make the switch to a cleaner, safer alternative. Despite the lack of electronic hookahs or cigars, smokers lovingly embrace the e-Cigarette as a product that caters to those who crave nicotine without dying over it. Since Hon’s prototype, companies have created fantastic experiences that provide a cheaper and effective means of satiating peoples’ need to smoke without harming them and the people around them. Hons Lik ingenuity and out-of-box thinking led to the birth of a new industry filled with continuous possibilities. So the next time you’re using an electronic cigarette, take a few seconds to reflect upon the innovation of one man who wanted an uncompromising cigarette experience that’s cheaper, safer, and simply put…better.