It is common knowledge that my personal experience, and some painful memories, sparked off my journey towards creating the electronic technology, which I was eventually able to patent as the electronic cigarette.
But obviously an idea itself is only the beginning. For me the experience I had planted a seed in my mind of how I might go about developing a tobacco-free nicotine product that still managed to recreate some of the sensory elements of smoking – by replacing smoking with vapour.
While it was clear to me what I could do, it was not at all clear to others. They couldn’t conceive of how a product that delivered nicotine by heating liquid and emitting flavoured vapour could ever work – or if it did work, why people would want to use it and keep on using it. And I have to admit that there were times when I agreed with them wholeheartedly during the often frustrating years I spent developing the design for what would go on to become the e-cigarette.
Anyone who has ever tried to create anything can identify with the painstaking process of going down one path, making tiny modifications, then changing their mind and starting all over again. But I was determined – because I was convinced that the product would make a real difference to people’s lives and bring tremendous social benefits.
What kept me going throughout those long years was the dream of creating a tobacco-free nicotine product that would appeal to people like me and my father, who at that point could see no alternative to a lifetime of smoking. That was what inspired me to keep trying despite all the obstacles in my way – and is why I was so pleased when the product spread first across China, and then even further afield.
It is so satisfying that vapour technology has had such an impact. That so many people are here today demonstrates that e-cigarettes have become a truly consumer-driven revolution all over the world. Thanks to millions of dedicated people like you, something that began as a niche product has grown and is influencing lives everywhere.
But we have to be careful and watchful now. There is still much suspicion of the growth of this technology, which was neither ordered by a government nor propelled by a big corporation. As vaping becomes more widespread, so investigation increases. The value of this product as part of tobacco harm reduction is being questioned. We who are so passionate about e-cigarettes will have to be ready to pursue our cause and ambition. Tradition and customs need to develop so as to create the progress which will finally push our societies forward.
So over the course of the next two days, I look forward to hearing your stories, to learning about exciting new technologies which are taking this product forward. And – above all else – to seeing what the future holds for a product has benefitted so much from your imagination, innovation and dedication.
Hon Lik | Warsaw, 16:00, Saturday 6th June 2015
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Before I begin my task of bringing this excellent event to a close, I am sure you would all like to join me in thanking the organisers, panellists and speakers for their efforts in making the last few days at the Global Forum on Nicotine a thoroughly enjoyable and valuable experience.
We have learned a lot today and yesterday. We are all here to play our part in shaping the future of a product that can play such a positive role in our societies. It thrills me to see how vapour products have developed beyond even my hopes. And it thrills me even more to think that they are continuing to mean so much to so many people, and to inspire such intense loyalty and advocacy among consumers and scientists alike. This passion has become more and more evident to me over the course of this event.
This brings me to my most important point. What has most struck me throughout the past two days is not only the innovative products and developments that we can expect in the future – although this would be the envy of any other fast moving consumer goods sector today - but even more important is the dedication of the people involved in every aspect of creating and using vaping products that reduce the risk to public health. From the manufacturers committed to developing and maintaining great products that meet the highest standards; to the scientists undertaking research into our nicotine products and helping us fight those who come to this with another agenda; to the advocacy groups who are doing so well in making their voices heard among regulators and politicians.
We ask forcefully that electronic cigarettes be given suitable and stable consumer legislation, that recognizes the human dimension, and reflects medical ethics - rather than legislation that seeks to mothball e-cigarettes. Because of the joint efforts of all the different groups’ joint effort, all of whom are represented here today, are making vaping products a truly consumer-oriented category that inspires and excites people across the world – an achievement of which you can all be proud.
On this note, I am eager to see what the next few years hold for this technology. Although we know that we face many battles, the commitment and enthusiasm shown by you all over the last two days fills me with confidence that we can triumph.
Once again, I thank everyone here for helping to make my dreams come true. We can be proud of our work.