A Billion Lives – Documentary Review

A Billion Lives
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The A Billion Lives documentary is one of the most talked about and highest rated vaping films ever made.

Unless you’ve been vaping alone in a dark, cloud-filled cave without access to wifi, you’ve probably heard about the A Billion Lives documentary.


Directed and narrated by filmmaker Aaron Biebert, A Billion Lives explores the worldwide tobacco epidemic and the way in which vaporizers help curb tobacco use.


The film starts off with a punch, incorporating a surprising and startling statistic that grips you from the first minute.


[Tweet ““This century a billion people are projected to die from smoking.””]


This powerful quote comes directly from the World Health Organization and forms the basis for the documentary. 


Overall, the A Billion Lives documentary delivers a striking story about the global tobacco problem and its history then proceeds to detail the conflicts of interest present between Big Tobacco, Big Pharma, public health organizations, and vaporizer manufacturers. Biebert is a master of using cinema to tell a story, and the cinematography of the film grips the eyes.



If you’re a vaper, and you know someone that finds your vaping habit questionable, this is the perfect documentary to show them. Many people prevalent in the vaping community have heard about these statistics and the story behind the documentary.

The A Billion Lives documentary is for the general public who may not have any idea about the facts regarding vaping. The film acts as a perfect introduction to the world of vaping and also presents a compelling argument about how common tobacco use still is and the harm it could cause over the next century.


After the initial quote regarding tobacco, Beibert launches into a history of tobacco use and sales. He focuses on the many ways in which large tobacco companies attempted to spin the truth on the dangers of tobacco to increase sales.


He utilizes former “Winston Man,” David Goerlitz, to help tell this story. Goerlitz was once the leading spokesman of Winston Cigarettes. He was placed in all sorts of masculine environments and used as a way for Winston to glamorize their cigarettes. After being in the tobacco spotlight for many years, Goerlitz denounced smoking after receiving pressure from his children. His 10-year-old son repeatedly warned him that he was going to die early because of his smoking habit. In 1988 he made a promise to his children and his wife that he would quit and become a staunch anti-tobacco activist.


After going in depth on the history of tobacco sales, Beibert transitions into a segment about e-cigarettes and vaporizers.


This is where the film starts to shine. Beibert’s high-profile guests and strong factual approach lead you on a journey into the world of vaporizers.


Featuring interviews from

  • Dr. Derek Yach, a former World Health Organization tobacco control chief. former president of the World Medical Association
  • Dr. Delon Human, former president of the World Medical Association, the second portion of the film gives it a powerful amount of validity.


These two doctors present a compelling argument as to how and why vaporizers could play a primary role in saving many of the billion lives that will be lost to tobacco.


The final section of the film delves into the many opponents of vaping and displays some unlikely organizations that are seeking to eradicate it including the FDA, the California Department of Public Health, many large pharmaceutical companies, and the governments of many poorer countries. Beibert’s chief argument is that multiple parties have a financial incentive to prevent vaping from becoming popular.

[Tweet “There are financial incentives to prevent #Vaping from becoming popular”]


Beibert gives a brief synopsis of his “Baptists and Bootleggers” argument to start off this section. During the prohibition, both preachers and bootleggers were in favor of keeping alcohol illegal. Preachers felt that way for moral reasons, and bootleggers felt that way because they could continue to profit off of prohibition.


Beibert uses this comparison to highlight those interests that are fighting vaping. There are many groups of people that want to keep vaping illegal because they feel that people getting attached to nicotine is morally wrong.


There is another side of the argument that can profit from tobacco sales continuing to grow.


Not only can many governments and public health organizations profit from vaporizers remaining illegal, but also companies that make tobacco products themselves can see losses in profits if vaporizers become normalized. Big Tobacco sees increased sales if more people continue smoking. Many governments generate enormous profits through tobacco taxes and commissions earned from tobacco companies. Big pharmaceutical companies that manufacture smoking cessation products do not want to lose out on billions of dollars in profits.


Beibert also argues that it is strange that the FDA, American Cancer Society and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids have all called for vaping to be banned, and yet continue to accept the use of tobacco as it is.

Baptists and Bootleggers

The people who oppose the legality of vaping.



Ultimately, the A Billion Lives documentary is about corruption and the many voices fighting to prevent vaping from being normalized in society. Beibert lays out the massive amount of money that is generated both through tobacco sales, and the public health organizations that help people to quit.


After watching A Billion Lives, it was hard not to find his argument compelling. The story is laid out in such a way that makes it difficult to stop watching, and you come away feeling like Beibert’s argument is valid and profoundly hard to ignore.


The general feel and plotline of A Billion Lives brings a few other documentaries to mind. The film goes along a similar route as other prevalent health-related documentaries like Food Inc. and Cowspiracy. If you’re interested in those types of documentaries that take a deep dive into a specific industry and follow the money, A Billion Lives will not disappoint.



I think that Beibert could have improved the film by including some interviews with people of opposing opinions. The film takes a one-sided stance that improves the argument but limits it in scope. However, Beibert does state multiple times that he reached out to officials from health organizations, tobacco companies, and pharmaceutical companies. All of them declined to make statements.


I also felt that some of the people interviewed by Beibert did not contribute much to the film. He interviews a handful of people that are not experts that relay personal anecdotes about smoking. He also interviews a former vape shop owner that was forced to close after harsh regulations came down in Australia. I thought these personal accounts were moving, but in some ways, I felt they were not necessary to further his argument.

This is a great resource if you’re looking to dive deeper into vaporizer facts  – Is Vaping Bad For You?



Tobacco, government, and pharmaceutical industries are tied together and have positioned themselves against vaping due to the threat vaping has for their pocketbooks. This film highlights that perhaps these industries do not have people’s best interest in mind.

[Tweet ““Vaping is a serious threat to many industry’s pocketbooks.””]


I will be recommending this movie to many of my friends and family. The bureaucratic tobacco epidemic is real, and I want to let everyone I know see how serious it is. Give the A Billion Lives documentary a watch. You won’t be disappointed.


Let us know your thoughts on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear your opinions on the documentary and encourage a discussion.


You can watch the documentary at ABillionLives.com. It is also available to rent/buy via Youtube, Amazon Video, Google Play Store, Itunes, and many more digital video providers.

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Gina King is the brand manager for Veppo International, the leading brand offering a robust selection of vape pen vaporizers, e-liquid and e-cigars. Over the past 6 years, Veppo has provided more than 108,000 customers a friendly alternative to cigarettes. More info at VeppoCig.com

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