When Aaron Biebert’s colleague and mentor was diagnosed with cancer as a result of years of smoking, he remembers being staggered that his friend made no attempts to quit, continuing with the habit right up until his death.
With tobacco companies lobbying in governments around the world in an effort to stymie the rise in popularity of electronic cigarettes, the documentary maker felt it was necessary to present to the public an accurate portrayal of the effect of traditional cigarettes on smokers – and to educate those who approach vaping with caution, due to misinformation around the practice.
A Billion Lives begins with the sombre statement: “This century a billion people are projected to die from smoking”. The documentary wastes no time in painting a picture of the world we live in; and how intentional distortion of the facts has led to a situation where despite support from institutions such as the BMJ and the Royal College of Physicians, many are still hesitant to switch to vaping.
Biebert himself is a lifetime non-smoker, and although his bias does seem clear, he says: “I am an advocate of trapped smokers who want to quit.”
‘There is an alternative out there’, says documentary maker
Recently celebrating its first set of international premieres, the documentary has been praised for its informative approach, as well as its artistic merit – already having earned both the Supreme Jury Prize and Best Director awards at the 2016 Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, as well as being tipped as a forerunner for next year’s Academy Awards.
A prime motivation for Beibert was discovering the deep corruption and political pull of large tobacco companies; and the lengths they will go to in order to keep profits high, while millions of people around the world die from their products.
While the vaping revolution is clearly going from strength to strength, the importance of a feature film that allows information from some of the foremost health specialists to be presented to the public directly cannot be ignored.
“My wish is that everyone who watches this documentary understands there is an alternative out there and they don’t have to die early,” said Biebert.