In the early 2000s, Hon Lik’s father, a heavy smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer. Hon, a pharmacist by training living in Shenyang, China, had a tobacco dependency of his own. That fact, along with the sobering news, spurred him to invent the device that became the precursor of most of today’s e-cigarettes.
Hon believed that “aerosolizing” nicotine, infusing it in a vapor rather than delivering it through smoke from tobacco, could help addicts sustain their habit without risking their life from exposure to tar and toxic chemicals. Hon’s product made its debut in 2003. His father died shortly afterward, but within a few years, e-cigarettes proliferated worldwide—their rapid adoption driven by the belief that they were safer than traditional cigarettes.
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