The electronic cigarette — a gizmo that looks just like the actual real thing and produces nicotine without fumes — was invented in China, and firms are taking aim at the U. S. market. Hon Lik used to light up first thing in the morning. He smoked cigarettes in between talks at the university in which he researched Oriental medicinal drugs, in between bites at lunch time, in the lab where he researched ginseng wellness products. He’d usually burn through two packs by dusk and smoke a third over dinner and drinks with colleagues.
It wasn’t until the biological father, likewise a serious cigarette smoker, past away associated with lung cancer that Hon ultimately quit the addiction. Hon’s narrative could be that of any other nicotine-addicted, middle-aged man within China, where 60% of the men smoke cigarettes. What distinguishes the 52-year-old pharmacist and inventor is that he found inspiration in the addiction.
One of the oddest gadgets to arrive out of China in recent years, Hon’s creation, the electric cigarette, turns the saying “where there’s smoke there’s fire” on its head. It doesn’t burn at all. Instead, it uses a small lithium battery that atomizes a liquid solution of nicotine. What you inhale looks like smoke, but it’s a vapor similar to stage fog. (Take that, smoke-free bars!) It even has a red light at the tip that lights up with each drag.
“It’s a much better, healthier way to inhale nicotine,” said Hon, blowing curlicues of e-smoke as he proved off the actual cig in his Beijing office. He says he doesn’t smoke anymore, except for such demonstrations. Hon got his first patent on the e-cigarette in 2003 and introduced it to the Chinese market the next year. The company he worked for, Golden Dragon Holdings, was so inspired that it changed its name to Ruyan meaning “like smoke” and started selling abroad.
This year, it’s planning a big push in the United States. A disposable e-cigarette called the Slinger ($ 44.95 for the equivalent of five packs) is due to hit 7-Elevens in the Dallas-Fort Worth area shortly and is also available from Variety Spot. Many rival versions, all made abroad, are making their own way to the U. S., sold mostly over the Internet by marketing firms.
When compared to nicotine patches and gum, smokeless cigarettes are designed to be fun. There are regulars and menthols, as well as chocolate and strawberry. A corporation in Japan is selling one that is charged by the USB port of a computer. The e-cigarettes aren’t marketed as a way to quit smoking, but as a smoking alternative.”It’s safe smoking — like smoking with a condom on,” said Bill Rusk, a Distributor who is marketing an Electronic Cigarette product called Smoke Free.
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