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Hon Lik: The initiative, struggle and gloomy ending of a 50s pharmacist’s cross-border electronic cigarette!

Hon Lik, a post-50s pharmacist, was the first to develop and test the theoretical concept of e-cigarettes, reproduce the finished products and put them into the market. He was customarily called the “father of e-cigarettes” in the industry. Since 2004, the electronic cigarette industry has experienced many ups and downs, but it has been developing continuously. It was thought that his reputation could grow with the development of the electronic cigarette industry. Unfortunately, Hon Lik almost disappeared after his e-cig brand Ruyan was acquired due to the serious loss. Few people in the circle mentioned the name anymore.

So how did Hon Lik get in touch with the electronic cigarette? What is the original intention of his research and development? Why did he start Ruyan? Where did he go in recent years? This is a series of questions that many friends in the circle have been wanting to know but have not been answered.

Hon Lik, the father of electronic cigarette
Hon Lik, the father of electronic cigarette

Hon Lik, born in 1956, is a pharmacist and engaged in medical research. He is currently working as a consultant for Fontem Ventures, a subsidiary of Imperial Tobacco. He worked in the Institute of traditional Chinese medicine and founded the JinLong Biological Science and Technology Co., Ltd.

In 1974, Hon Lik became an educated youth in the countryside and began smoking to relieve loneliness away from his family. Like many smokers, Hon Li’s addiction to cigarettes is increasing, and he can smoke two or three packs of cigarettes a day at most when he is under great pressure after work. Later, Hon Lik’s father suffered from lung cancer from smoking all the year round, which made him decide to quit smoking. Hon Lik initially tried nicotine patches, but they didn’t work. Sometimes he forget to remove the patch, and Hon lik had nightmares all night.

In the 80s of last century, Hon Lik worked at the Liaoning Institute of traditional Chinese medicine for medical research.

In the 90s of last century, Hon Lik left the Institute of traditional Chinese medicine and founded the Biotechnology Co., Ltd.

In 2001, JinLong Technology Company Limited was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange under the name of “Golden Dragon Group” and its main business was pharmaceutical research and development.

Later, his father died of lung cancer from smoking, which hit Hon Lik very hard. Every time Hon Lik smoked cigarettes, the hands trembled involuntarily. Every time he took out his cigarettes, he felt they were emptying their lungs. It was because of his father’s affair that Hon Lik’s ideas were deeply changed and he set foot on the road of life related to electronic cigarettes.

Hon Lik, the father of electronic cigarette

In 2002, Hon Lik began to develop new smoking cessation products. He has worked in the Liaoning Institute of traditional Chinese medicine for ten years, providing him with the foundation of research and development. Hon Lik’s idea is that smoking addiction is caused by nicotine, but burning products such as tar are the most harmful to human body. If only nicotine is retained after removing these harmful substances, the harm of smoking will be greatly reduced. After countless experiments, Hon Li’s electronic cigarette was born.

In March 2003, Hon Lik registered the patent of related electronic cigarette products in his own name.

In May 2004, industrial production began.

In 2005, Ruyan was put into market

In December 2006, Ryuyan Group, through signing a memorandum of understanding, purchased electronic cigarette business from Hon Lik, one of its shareholders.

In November 2007, Gold Dragon Group announced that it was renamed Ruyan Group. At one time, its share price was as high as HK$116 and its market value was nearly HK$120 billion. At the same time, Ruyan products exported to Europe and the United States, popular abroad.

In 2009, the FDA issued a comprehensive import ban on electronic cigarettes. Ruyan in foreign markets business is deteriorating, and it begins to refocus on the Chinese market. However, contrary to expectations, according to its 2009 financial report, Ruyan lost 444 million yuan in the whole year.

In 2010, during the first seven months, Ruyan had eight suspensions of listing, the company raised 87.6 million yuan to renew its life by means of placement holding. In August, the company issued a bulletin, renamed as Sanlong International. The announcement said the renaming would reflect the diversity of the company’s future business. At that time, the share price of Ruyan Group had been hovering around HK$0.1 for a long time.

In 2013, after a series of losses, Ruyan were bought by the world’s fourth largest tobacco companies Empire tobacco for 75 million dollars, including electronic cigarette patents, rights and possible patent infringement litigation proceeds. Hon Lik worked as a consultant for Fontem Ventures, a company owned by Imperial Tobacco.

e-cig inventor hon lik talks about new regulations

In November 2018, Hon Lik made a rare announcement on the proposal of the Hongkong Special Administrative Region government to ban electronic cigarettes. It is hoped that the Hongkong government will reconsider the proposal on a comprehensive ban on vapes, which will affect the life of the users of adult vapers and the lives of smokers who may consider replacing potentially harmful products. Hon Lik stressed in particular the understanding of Hongkong’s prudent stance on vape and its concerns about the use of minors in the United States. However, the ban may backfire. Evidence from countries including the United States and the United Kingdom suggests that pragmatic regulation of vape can help accelerate the decline in adult smoking rates.

Although Ruyan has become history, Hon Lik has become obscurity, but we should not forget the contribution of Hon Lik to the development of electronic cigarette. Maybe, as Hon Lik taunted himself – maybe in 20 or 30 years I’ll be very famous, let’s look forward to it.

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