The World Health Organisation (WHO) is predicting that this century alone, a billion lives will be lost to smoking. A Billion Lives is a documentary film that examines vaping and e-cigarettes as a healthy alternative to smoking. The film's director, Aaron Biebert says he made the documentary after one of his co-workers died from lung cancer from smoking.
The film was on show at the recent Jozi Film Festival winning an award. It also won the Supreme Jury Prize and Best Director awards at the 2016 Melbourne Documentary Film Festival and has won awards and critical acclaim on four continents. It now moves to Paris after which it makes its Hollywood debut.
At the end of 2014 Biebert began to investigate vaping and e-cigarettes as a method to quit smoking. “At first I thought these devices were so dumb, but then so many people explained to me that these devices were what had enabled them to stop smoking and I began thinking that maybe this was a solution.”
There is a great deal of international controversy regarding the vaping industry. In addition to health concerns there are also concerns regarding whether or not e-cigarettes are a viable alternative to smoking.
An independent study by Public Health England in August found that e-cigarettes are 95% safer than tobacco
He researched the topic for three months and the more he examined the topic the more it made no sense to him. “Here was something that was helping people quit smoking, but instead of this being celebrated, it was being demonized.” He says a number of fraudulent studies exist on vaping and the e-cigarette.
Biebert heads up a small independent production house that produces commercials for brands and Non-Government Organisations (NGO). This film, he says, was a step us for them. “We wanted to make a movie for the theatre, but we did not want to make one that no one wants to see.”
The film, which was shot on four continents, is not over sensational; it gives the facts from experts. “We anticipated some support and some rejection. We were surprised that the Cancer and Lung Association did not want to be featured, but then I figure that their goal is to fight lung disease and the movie is about quitting smoking.”
The public’s response has been positive. “But the public do not know what is going on when it comes to these devices. The fact is that vaping is saving peoples’ lives. Demonizing these devices is not helping.”
Two local doctors are featured in the movie: Delon Human, who is former president of the World Medical Association (WMA) and adviser to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, and Derek Yach, former executive director for the World Health Organization (WHO) and currently chief health officer of the Vitality Institute, an action-oriented global health research organisation. Yach also serves on several advisory boards including the Clinton Global Initiative, the World Economic Forum, and the NIH’s Fogarty International Centre.