Although China is the world’s leading producer of e-cigarettes, when it comes to its domestic consumption things don’t have a very bright side and this is a real paradox. Puffing on the devices is escalating worldwide, but it forms only a very small part of China’s 1.2 trillion yuan (about $200 billion) cigarette business.

Chinese StreetIn Shanghai, as his wife got pregnant, 30 year old salesman Qu Liang decided to make the switch from analogs to electronic cigarettes but he noticed that very few of his friends or acquaintances even heard of such devices, even though they were invented in China about a decade ago by a medical researcher and the country supplies nearly the entire global demand.

Since using the product for the first time six years ago due to some health reasons, Liang began selling the devices himself, only last year expanding from exports to the domestic market. “As more and more places become off limits to smoking, I find myself using e-cigarettes more often,” he said.

The increased public awareness about the health risks involving smoking corroborated with China’s hardening stance on public smoking, has opened a door for businesses such as Qu Liang’s that now don’t have to only rely on exports.  Still, e-cigarettes are mostly sold online across the country where government regulation around the product is relaxed at the moment but other blooming economies like Singapore and Brazil have decided to ban these devices for the moment.

Ecigarette sales in the United States grew at 115% each year between 2009 and 2012, and could grow us much as 240% this year, according to experts. The global e-cigarette market could increase up to $10 billion by 2017 but for a small Chinese market like Liang’s getting a bite of the 300 million and counting smokers inside the country.  In 2012, Chinese people smoked a total of 2.46 trillion cigarettes while the country accounts for one-third of whole global consumption.

“The harsher control of tobacco is great news for electric cigarettes,” said Lai Baosheng, general manager ecigarette maker ‘Smoore’, adding that relaxed smoking rules in China had previously slowed the development of the business.

Some analysts predict that the Chinese market slowly opens up to e-cigarettes giving even bigger companies like Smoore a chance to find some opportunities back home. The company shipped over 100 million electornic cigs to mostly the EU and the US with it’s income doubling since the previous year.

But as time passes by and more and more people will start to join the vaping community, perhaps these devices will become the cigarettes of the future and no one will ever have to smoke tobacco in a decade or so.