Wicked Wizard Eliquid Cigarettes: Where’s the Proof?
smoking ban fights 400 years of tradition
Beijing has banned smoking in indoor spaces, but its citizens are concerned it won’t change anything.
More than a million people die each year in China of smoking-related illnesses. But the tobacco lobby is powerful in a country where the government runs the world’s largest cigarette industry — one that provides up to 10% of state revenue.
China’s love for tobacco won’t be easy to defeat, since it’s been in vogue for more than 400 years.
Smoking punishable by decapitation
Chinese people first tasted tobacco in the 1500s from Portuguese and Spanish traders, operating from colonies in Macao and the Philippines. It spread quickly. By 1642, there were “tobacconists on every street corner” of Beijing, even though the emperor had banned it three years earlier, on penalty of beheading.
The Chinese began cultivating tobacco, or “dry liquor,” and smoked it from long pipes rather than as cigars. (Women’s pipes were longer than men’s, to better cool the smoke.) Despite attempts to ban by several emperors, by the end of the 17th century China was asmoking culture.
Emperor Kang Xi, Qing Dynasty, banned smoking. © xinhuanet.com/cn
Imported American cigarettes hit it big
Durham, NC, US
After the invention of the cigarette machine, industrialist James Duke asked for an atlas and began scanning population figures. China’s was 430 million. The Dukes began selling cigarettes to China in 1890.
As China modernized and Westernized, cigarettes became popular among the youth, who viewed pipes as antiquated. Sales climbed tenfold from 1902 to 1916, by which time the US sold more cigs to China than to all other countries combined. Duke’s consortium, British American Tobacco, made cigarettes in China alongside Chinese manufacturers.
An advertisement for Red Lion cigarettes © Public Domain
- APRIL 1935
China’s leaders ban smoking, but keep smoking
The Kuomintang party under Chiang Kai-shek launched an effort to rid China of drugs in two years and cigarettes in six. World War II and the KMT’s war with the Communist Party of China derailed those plans.
When the Communists took over China in 1949, they banned smoking, even though Mao Zedong and his successor Deng Xiaoping were chain smokers.
The kitschy “Smoking Deng Xiaoping” watch, made by the Shanghai Tang company © Don Lafferty/YouTube
Excited fans light Chairman Mao’s cigarette. © xinhuanet.com/cn
Bloomberg ban sets standard for world cities
New York City
Mayor Michael Bloomberg sought to ban consumer products he believed were unhealthy, including large sodas. His Smoke-Free Air Act successfully banned smoking in workplaces, bars, restaurants and other indoor spaces.
In the years after the New York ban, all of Western Europe, Mexico, Brazil and other locales enacted their own bans. The Chinese special administrative region of Hong Kong followed suit in 2007 and later raised cigarette prices.
A sign in Hong Kong warns smokers of a $5,000 fine. © Public Domain
Scientist invents e cig after father’s death
After his father died of lung cancer, Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik was inspired to create a healthier alternative to smoking. Heinvented an electronic cigarette that heated liquid nicotine to the point of vaporization and fed it to the user. This provided a fix of nicotine without the necessity of inhaling burnt plant matter. The vapor it produced was odorless and dissipated much more quickly than tobacco smoke.
The company he worked for, Golden Dragon, was so encouraged by his invention that it changed its name to Ruyan, or “like smoke” in Chinese, and began marketing the product abroad.
Hon Lik, inventor of the e cig, smoking one © DR
China ratifies WHO smoking convention
China had the world’s largest population of smokers, at 350 million, by the time it ratified the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2005. It demanded that countries take steps to prevent exposure to secondhand smoke.
China embarked on an anti-smoking drive in 2006, but its state-owned enterprises, which produced 42% of the world’s cigarettes, said they were healthy. More than 60% of male doctors smoked. A Beijing University study found the costs of treating tobacco-related illness exceeded the profits on tobacco production, but it was largely ignored.
Peng Liyuan, China’s anti-smoking ambassador, and Bill Gates attend an anti-smoking campaign ahead of the 25th World No-Tobacco Day, in Beijing, May 29, 2012 © Lou Linwei/Asianewsphoto
- JUNE 1, 2015
Beijing bans smoking
This year on World No Tobacco Day, after overcoming objections from the tobacco lobby, the government banned smoking in all indoor spaces in Beijing, the capital city of 21 million people.
The government attempted to ban smoking in 2009 and 2011, but the bans went largely unenforced. There’s concern things will end the same way this time around. Smoking is socially accepted everywhere and at all times in China, and tobacco is an appropriate gift for all occasions.
In a survey conducted by state-run Xinhua news agency before the ban, just 17% of respondents thought it would succeed.
Though the smoking ban in Beijing has been passed, the question of enforcement remains. © China Today
- Philip Tinari writes about “China Trade: The Art and Commerce of Tobacco” in Duke Magazine, August 1, 2005.
You can read about how many different countries started smoking in Smoke: A Global History of Smoking by Sander L. Gilman.
For a deep look at how US tobacco companies exploited the China market in Big Business in China: Sino-Foreign Rivalry in the Cigarette Industry, 1890-1930 by Sherman Cochran