In the US, we have seen the negative headlines: “E-Cigarettes ‘No Better’ Than Smoking Tobacco”. We have seen the anti-vaping campaigns: “Still Blowing Smoke”. What we haven’t seen is the truth, which is why Aaron Biebert, Director of A Billion Lives, and his film production company Attention Era Media have traveled across the world—to reveal just that: the truth.
A Billion Lives: The Quest for Truth
On May 11, 2016, just one day after the FDA regulations (created based on the Tobacco Control Act of 2009) were officially published in the US Federal Register, the Doc Edge Festival in New Zealand featured the world premiere of A Billion Lives, a documentary about the vaping revolution and government failure in accepting what renowned physicians, researchers and tobacco harm reduction experts across the world are calling a “public health miracle”.
The Making of A Billion Lives
A Billion Lives Director Aaron Biebert is not a vaper and was never a smoker, nor did he receive any outside funding to create the film—so why did he decide to make a documentary about vaping? That’s the question vapers across the world have been asking, and we were lucky enough to ask him personally during the June 6th installment of the E-Cigs DeMISTified Webinar Series. His response?
“I was one of those guys in the old days that used to think that vaping was stupid and I saw the news about how it’s more dangerous than smoking—formaldehyde and all that stuff. It was finally set straight by a vaper, and when I finally learned of the corruption that was going on with it…it seemed like a very important topic—we’re talking about saving people’s lives—so this really felt like something we could make an impact in.”
And what an impact it could make. The documentary trailer itself is powerful enough to evoke human emotion, from anger to sadness, and is also enough to raise questions about the government’s role and true intentions in creating public health policies. Out of all of the countries in the world, New Zealand was definitely the best place to see the truth first, as e-cigarette products containing nicotine or claiming to help people quit smoking are currently illegal.
So how does the country feel about vapor products now? Ministers are now lobbying to lift the ban on vapor products containing nicotine to instead be used as an option for tobacco harm reduction, as stated by the leader of ACT New Zealand, David Seymour, “There’s no downside to legalizing e-cigarettes”. With this in mind, it may be safe to say the film could make quite an impact on the laws in the country, which brings hope to vapers and vaping advocates across the world who are currently fighting back against the war on vaping.
Behind A Billion Lives: The Interviews
During his quest for truth, Aaron interviewed several leaders in the field of tobacco harm reduction, including:
Clive Bates, former head of ASH and current Director of Counterfactual Consulting and Advocacy who also serves as an advisor for the E-Research Foundation (ERF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to further advancing the scientific study of vapor products and how they are used.
“I always flinch when I hear colleagues saying things about e-cigarettes that they know, or they should know, are completely wrong or exaggerated or scare-mongering. There is too much of that going on.” – Clive Bates
Delon Human, a South African doctor based in Switzerland and President/CEO of Nicolife, a group specializing in tobacco harm reduction and the appropriate use and recognition of nicotine. He also serves as the Secretary-General of the Africa Medical Association and is a published author, international lecturer and well-respected healthcare consultant.
“When you look at e-cigarettes, there is growing evidence that this could be the breakthrough that we’re waiting for.” – Delon Human
Oliver Kershaw, BSc Psychology, Director of Vaping.com, a site housing the latest news and research out of the vapor industry; Founder and Managing Director of the E-Cigarette Forum (ECF), the world’s largest electronic cigarette community website; and Co-Founder of the E-Cigarette Summit of 2013, which took place at the Royal Society in London in November of 2013.
“This is a miracle. This is an absolute public health miracle in the making.” – Oliver Kershaw
Derek Yach, Chief Health Officer of Vitality and former Executive Director for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health of the World Health Organization (WHO) where he led the development of WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and the Global Strategy on Diet and Physical Activity. He also established the Centre for Epidemiological Research at the South African Medical Research Council and has authored/co-authored over 200 articles covering the breadth of global health.
“If you are a pharmaceutical company who’s starting to see your share of the market on nicotine replacement therapy slide, what are you gonna do? Are you gonna sit on your bum and do nothing?” – Derek Yach
Censorship of A Billion Lives
In October of 2015, Facebook tried to censor A Billion Lives by denying Aaron the right to promote his film through the social media channel. This censorship invoked an uproar from the vaping community resulting in a petition being started, articles being written, Facebook fans changing their profile names and pictures to “A Billion Lives”, CASAA sharing the story through their Facebook fan page, and letters being written, including the letter Aaron sent to Facebook to appeal the decision. The story was shared thousands of times and as a result, Facebook reversed the decision to censor A Billion Lives.
What Critics Are Saying About A Billion Lives
After the film made its official premiere in New Zealand, the reviews started pouring in. Ryan Jay, one of America’s most popular, nationally syndicated radio film critics, described it as “a wake up call” during his review of A Billion Lives. Ryan referred to the film as “a brilliant documentary…it will frustrate and enlighten you to the second coming out of the Tobacco industry’s lies…I was so angry when this movie ended, I felt like I could chew glass.”
This seems to be the common consensus as one reviewer from New Zealand stated, “As an expat American, I knew about how things worked in the US from living there but seeing the shock on people’s faces after viewing this movie and the reality that it is happening even here in New Zealand….it was sad to see how duped people are. Hopefully the people who need to see this movie will see this movie and feel a sense of shame for what they are participating in.”
An In-Depth Interview with Aaron Biebert
On June 6, 2016, Aaron Biebert joined the “E-Cigs DeMISTified” webinar series to discuss his film. During the webinar, Aaron discussed what led him to create the vaping documentary, the challenges he faced in making it, and his plans for bringing the film to theaters across the US. Click the play button below to view the full discussion.
A Billion Lives: Coming to a Theater Near You
Aaron and his crew are still on tour, premiering their documentary in all parts of the world, and will be bringing the film to theaters across the US during the summer of 2016. If you would like to learn more about A Billion Lives and show your support for the movement, be sure to like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter and subscribe to the A Billion Lives email list to receive updates on when and where you can see the film.