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Chinese like to quip that the electronic cigarette is China’s fifth great invention, after paper, printing, gunpowder and the compass. A Chinese pharmacist hatched the idea in 2003 to wean smokers off tobacco. But it was in America, home to brands like Juul and Blu, that vaping first took off. Although one in four Chinese adults smoke tobacco, sales of e-cigarettes in China amounted to $2.7bn last year, a tenth of those in America, according to Frost and Sullivan, a consultancy.