Cinema is often at the forefront of introducing new technology to the masses.
The rise of vaping and the use of e-cigarettes on the big and small screen has been gaining ground over the last decade or so. Johnny Depp’s turn in the 2010 film The Tourist featured the star using a vape, one of the earliest to do so on screen. John Cusack is often seen using the device in the maligned but fun Drive Hard, as well as continuing the trend in David Cronenberg’s Map to the Stars. As the ubiquity of vaping increases we’re sure to see more of this on the big screen, bringing with it a thriving subculture much as the films of the 40s, 50s and 60s almost always showed smoking as a visual cue to suggest a certain attitude and mystique. It also gave them something to do with their hands…
Since the 2006 Health Act and the subsequent smoking ban in public places came into effect in 2007 here in the UK many have carried over the associations from the proven health concerns with tobacco smoking. In the 2016 documentary A Billion Lives director Aaron Biebert set to examine the enormous effect vaping was having in society and to the health of the titular billions across the world. Cinema, once again, comes into its own as an overseer of change.
As well as the history of smoking the film takes a critical look at the corruption inherent in the industries running the show and how misinformation and corporate dealings that necessitated the safer alternatives. Biebert, not himself a smoker or vaper, associated the risks of one with the risks of the other. A conversation with a vape user changed his view, and started him on the road to making the film. Talking at the E-Cigs DeMISTified Webinar Series Biebert said,
“…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.”
Despite a tussle with Facebook in 2015, which saw the promotional page for the film censored, the film premiered in Washington, New Zealand on the 10th of May 2016 as part of the Doc Edge Festival. A US premiere followed in August before Los Angeles and New York saw the debut of the film at the end of October. It is hoped that the film will help to demystify vaping, bringing a clear understanding of the new technology and how Biebert’s Billions Lives could be saved.
You can find out more and watch the film right here.