A Billion Lives: worth the hype? Vaping film review
A Billion Lives is the latest documentary to tackle the issues of vaping, some of the biggest controversies that surround it as a market, and its most outspoken and prevalent adversaries.
The film comes from Milwaukee director Aaron Biebert, who began to delve into the subject of smoking addiction after a close friend became a victim of lung cancer. During his research, Biebert discovered that an estimated billion people around the world were expected to die as a result of smoke-related illnesses by the end of the century, a shocking figure which formed the basis for the film’s title.
Biebert also uncovered surprising evidence that suggested big business and the government could be interfering with cost-effective alternatives such as e-cigarettes that had the potential to aid in smoking cessation. A Billion Lives claims that such organisations have a vested interest in perpetuating a negative attitude when it comes to e-cigarettes, and it looks at just how much experts in the field really know about vaping.
The documentary features a number of intriguing conversation, from interviews with the former secretary general of the World Medical Association to David Goerlitz who achieved recognition as the former “Winston Man” and face of one of the biggest cigarette brands but is now working as an anti-smoking activist.
The recently applied FDA regulations are likely to put the e-cigarette industry under strain, and alarmist headlines are encouraging a misunderstanding among the wider public, but Biebert says this is exactly what he is seeking to redress with A Billion Lives. It isn’t enough for vapers to try to convince the majority; the public wants to hear from scientists and health leaders.
A Billion Lives has been making steady impact in the mainstream press, and has had successful premieres around the world from New Zealand to Europe, because as Biebert sees it, cigarettes and their alternatives aren’t just a local issue, it’s a subject that has pandemic implications.
The film also ambitiously tackles the subject of nicotine. Through the making of the documentary, Biebert was informed that many people wrongly believe that nicotine is one of the cancer-causing components in tobacco smoke, something which hampers the reputation of electronic alternatives, as e-liquids also frequently contain nicotine. However, this is not the case and suggest that the misinformation and lack of education regarding e-liquids and devices goes much further the general public.
Biebert also lays a portion of blame at the media’s door, “The media many times believes whatever they are told by a doctor, so there are tons of ignorant comments in articles and videos all over the internet”, and of course whilst the media takes the word of doctors as gospel, so a good portion of society take the word of the media very seriously, without doing their own research or taking time to check the facts themselves.
But why is it that “big pharma” are going after e-cigarettes so voraciously as opposed to any other alternative? Well, according to Biebert this is due in part to the rapid rise in popularity vaping has achieved in a relatively short space of time, and because unlike nicotine patches or other similar methods, the e-cigarette market offers room for small independents to take a chunk of profit that would otherwise stay within medically licences corporations.
When it comes to critical opinion, A Billion Lives seems to have come up favourably on the whole – The New York Times and LA Times praised Biebert for his compelling argument and his refreshingly ardent passion for delving into a provocative subject, but both publications expressed a desire for a little more in the way of hard facts. Other sources have expressed a wish for a greater variety of interviewees, but the overall effect of A Billion Lives has yet to set in- the film’s name is drip-feeding down to international big names in the world of both tobacco control and e-cigarettes, and regardless of opinion, the film is making a talking point of the subject.
You can check out what screenings are happening near you on the film’s website.
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