Hon Lik

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Han Li (Hon Lik)
Known forInventor of the modern electronic cigarette

Han Li or Hon Lik (Chinese: 韓力; pinyin: Hán Lì; Cantonese Yale: Hon Lik) (born 26 September 1951) is a Chinese pharmacist who invented the modern electronic cigarette.[1]

Early life[edit]

Hon Lik (or Han Li) is a Chinese native, born in Shenyang, China on 26 September 1951. At 18 years old he worked in a rural area far away from his friends and family, claiming this started his smoking addiction. Eventually he moved back to the city to attend school and study to be a pharmacist. Hon has said that he feels this career choice, pharmacy, was always forced upon him, but looking back he is grateful for how far it has taken him. Once he graduated with a pharmaceutical degree from Liaoning University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in 1982, he joined the Liaoning Academy, where he continued his study of traditional Chinese Medicine. After he finished the Academy, Hon spent the next ten years in a plant agriculture state enterprise. During these ten years he "manufactured a ginseng plant known as aphrodisiac".[2] Also during this time he married his wife in the year 1984 and had his daughter in 1990. Hon's father passed away in 2004 due to lung cancer. Hon, like his father, had a smoking problem, smoking one to two packs per day.



Since 1990, Hon Lik has been the Vice-Superintendent of Liaoning Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, where he was responsible for the technology development. Beginning in October 2003 he also functioned as a Director of Western Technologies Corp.

Within his own company, Hon only owned about 0.72% of the shares. He is one of the co-founders of Dragonite International Limited (Golden Dragon Group Holding Limited), a company located in Hong Kong that is divided between health care, pharmaceutical, and electronic cigarettes. In addition to being the co-founder, Hon also served as the Dragonite's Chief Executive Officer, Executive Vice Chairman, and Non-Executive Director for eight years from October 2005 to October 2013.[3]

Dragonite ended up purchasing Hon's company after the financial crisis of 2007. Dragonite's goal was to sell this invention for 55 million euros to Imperial Tobacco, the "tobacco giant" in Britain. Although this is a lot of money, Hon said he will not receive any financial benefit, for the money will be invested back into the company. In 2014, the result of many lawsuits taking place in the United States and Europe had Hon still waiting to receive payments, supposedly a large amount.

Hon was nominated as the 2010 Kcancer Hero candidate for his invention of the e-cigarette.[4]

Hon sees the e-cigarette as comparable to the "digital camera taking over from the analog camera."[5] He has said "My fame will follow the development of the e-cigarette industry. Maybe in 20 or 30 years I will be very famous."[5] Hon said in 2013 that "I really hope that the large international pharmaceutical groups get into manufacturing electronic cigarettes and that authorities like the FDA in the United States will continue to impose stricter and stricter standards so that the product will be as safe as possible."[6]

Invention of the e-cigarette[edit]

Hon started his whole journey with the goal to help himself quit the same habit that killed his father - cigarettes. His father's death was Hon's main influence of the development of e-cigarettes. Little did he know that it will be the start to a growing industry where people use his invention for exactly the same reason he did.[7] He first got the idea when he forgot to remove a nicotine patch before going to bed. It was at this moment he realized the patches didn't give him the same head rush as compared to smoking, and had him craving "real" cigarettes.[8]

Before e-cigarettes became a worldwide frenzy, Hon worked on other alternative ways for people to use Chinese remedies, like ginseng and deer antler.[9] He had his patients taking pills before he had the idea to "registering his claim to e-cigarettes in the most lucrative market in the world – not China, where there is still little interest, but the US".[9]

In 2001, while still on the nicotine patches, Hon devised a system using food additives as solvents. During this time, he was working on vaporization by ultrasound. At first the droplets formed didn't look like tobacco smoke because were too big. Upon trying resistance heating he achieved better results. The challenges Hon faced were trying to scale the device small enough to be hand-held and cigarette-sized, having the right amount of nicotine, and the right odors from harmless flavors.

In 2003, Hon came up with the idea to use a high frequency, piezoelectric ultrasound-emitting element to vaporize a forced stream of liquid containing nicotine, designed as a vapor, similar to cigarettes, that delivers nicotine. Filing his first patent in China, the United States, and European Union in 2003, the first e-cigarette was manufactured by ultrasound technology a year later in Beijing, China. When talking with Kaleigh Rogers, Hon mentioned that he "expected the success to be huge and because of this belief it was actually my motivation to go through a very lengthy and harsh development."[10] There was still minimal interest in China, but once firms started selling products in Europe and North America the vaping industry really took off. The first e-cigarette model is named “Ruyan” and it consists of 3 parts: a battery, a plastic cartridge containing a nicotine solution, and a heating element composed of an ultrasonic atomizer.[11]

The Ruyan did not have the vaporization system used today but was instead based on atomization, which vaporizes liquids through the heating produced by the electricity of the battery.[12] Most e-cigarettes today use a battery-powered heating element rather than the ultrasonic technology patented design from 2003.[13]

In an interview with Nicolas Siridi, Hon Lik mentioned that he is working on another product, the "e-hookah", to be sold in the Middle Eastern and North African markets.[14]


  1. ^ "A high-tech approach to getting a nicotine this is very lamefix". Los Angeles Times. April 25, 2009. Retrieved November 28, 2014.
  2. ^ "E-cigs a 'consumer-driven' revolution born from a bad dream". Reuters. 2015-06-09. Retrieved 2019-04-25.
  3. ^ "Lik Hon: Executive Profile & Biography - Bloomberg". www.bloomberg.com. Retrieved 2019-04-25.
  4. ^ HARRIMAN. "Hon Lik – 2010 Kcancer Hero Nominee". PRLog. Retrieved March 22, 2010.
  5. ^ a b Tom Hancock (1 October 2013). "China's e-cigarette inventor fights for financial rewards". Fox News Channel.
  6. ^ Sridi, Nicolas (10 July 2013). "I was sure that the electronic cigarette would be welcomed with open arms". Sciences et Avenir.
  7. ^ "Interview With Hon Lik, Inventor of E-Cigarettes". www.bigdvapor.net. Retrieved 2019-04-25.
  8. ^ "The Story of the E-Cigarette | Fontem Ventures". Retrieved 2019-04-25.
  9. ^ a b Boseley, Sarah (2015-06-09). "Hon Lik invented the e-cigarette to quit smoking – but now he's a dual user". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-04-25.
  10. ^ Rogers, Kaleigh (2016-07-18). "We Asked the Inventor of the E-Cigarette What He Thinks About Vape Regulations". Motherboard. Retrieved 2019-04-26.
  11. ^ Rumble, Carambo (2018-11-26). "The Evolution of E-Cigarette Heating Technology". Medium. Retrieved 2019-04-25.
  12. ^ "Electronic Atomization Cigarette". Worldwide.espacenet.com. 22 November 2007.
  13. ^ Bhatnagar, A.; Whitsel, L. P.; Ribisl, K. M.; Bullen, C.; Chaloupka, F.; Piano, M. R.; Robertson, R. M.; McAuley, T.; Goff, D.; Benowitz, N. (24 August 2014). "Electronic Cigarettes: A Policy Statement From the American Heart Association". Circulation. 130 (16): 1418–1436. doi:10.1161/CIR.0000000000000107. PMID 25156991.
  14. ^ ""I was sure that the electronic cigarette would be welcomed with open arms"". Sciences et Avenir (in French). Retrieved 2019-04-25.