watch a billion lives The author with vaping icon Phil Busardo"
I probably didn’t even need to use a GPS to find the Pabst Theater, where I saw A Billion Lives in its North American Premiere. The pleasant cloud of collective vape smoke that hovered in front of the theater entrance would have been enough to navigate me from Chicago to Milwaukee.  I had been waiting to watch A Billion Lives since I first heard of the movie.  As I shimmied to the door with my friend (a non-vaper), I passed a mob of familiar faces that I’ve interacted with on the Internet. People blowing killer clouds. People showing off their mods. And most importantly, people going on impassioned rants about the FDA and vapers’ rights. The movie beyond exceeded my expectations (my friend was floored to learn how much the media has spread lies about vaping) , and the reminder I came away with was echoed in director Aaron Biebert’s intro speech when he said talked about how he considers us all his neighbors. He then said he stands up for his neighbors. After seeing A Billion Lives, I know that it is that passion that comes through in every second of the documentary.   There’s a reason people drove from all over the country to see A Billion Lives. It’s worth every mile and every minute. After mingling on the red carpet, snapping pics of Biebert, going live on Facebook, and meeting one of my idols, vaping advocate Phil Busardo, I settled into my seat as the commotion died down and the theater lights began to dim. A Billion Lives gets to the heart of the matter right from the first vignettes. As I started to chat with a couple from Buffalo, New York, and I was reminded of the one thing that connects this community: we don’t smoke; we vape. And we are not going down without a fight.   The beginning of A Billion Lives focused on the start of vaping. Now how vaping started, or even where vaping started, but simply why vaping started. The voices of average people echoed throughout the theater in a series of vignettes in which people in the documentary stated how long they’d been smoking. “30 years.” “40 years.” It went on and on, and it was a very effective start for an audience full of people who shared the same story. If you know anyone who has struggled to quit smoking, it will strike a chord with you. If you have heard anything about vaping in the media, it will strike an unsettling chord with you too.   The documentary continued with interviews by industry advocates, leading scientists, public and public figures, including Caty Tidwell, Bill Godshall, Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, Oliver Kershaw, Clive Bates, and many more. It followed the trajectory path of why and how vaping became popular, and then it tackled nearly every anti-vaping argument by calling out the devious deeds of big tobacco, big pharma and, of course, the FDA.   During the middle of the film, a fire alarm randomly went off, and Biebert quipped, “that’s what you get when you start exposing the FDA.” The theater erupted in shouts and cheers.  Yet another example of one of the big struggles that united everyone there. By the time the hour and a half long documentary wrapped up, everyone was on their feet, applauding furiously and cheering. For the entire hour and a half, we had gone through a roller coaster of emotions together, from touched and saddened, to appalled and indignant, to righteous and empowered. The film’s tagline has been, “You Are Being Lied To.” It felt so refreshing to hear the truth that we wanted to shout it from the rooftops. Shout it for all to hear. But the FDA won’t let us; that’s why Aaron Biebert and A Billion Lives are doing it for vapers everywhere.   As we left the theater, my friend said of the FDA regulations and all the vape hate in the media, “It all seems punitive, and for what?” We’re being punished for trying to do good. And now it’s time to fight back.