Enlisting a variety of personalities ranging from doctors to the former Winston Man, “A Billion Lives” credibly explores a conspiracy behind anti-vaping legislation. Talking-head interviews combine with news footage and occasional investigative journalism to reveal that it isn’t just Big Tobacco who is against the rise of electronic cigarettes. Instead, the film also delves into the connections between the public health industry and traditional cessation aids, as well as the massive amounts of money governments make from the sale of cigarettes.
“A Billion Lives” replays the evolution of tobacco and cigarettes for much of its running time, before it addresses the more recent disruption by vaping and its advocates. The movie effectively argues that nicotine — found in traditional cigarettes, as well as in most e-cigarette liquid — isn’t the primary cause of smoking-related health issues. Instead, it’s the smoke that is most deadly, making the alternative a far safer option for 1 billion smokers around the world.
Though its argument is often compelling, the documentary would be better served by featuring a greater number of persuasive advocates for its case and fewer webcam testimonials. Director Aaron Biebert is making his debut here, and his appearances and voice-over throughout the film feel more sporadic than intentional. “A Billion Lives” employs a variety of experts in relaying its message, but it sometimes feels like a statistic-filled, 95-minute commercial for the vaping industry rather than a feature-length documentary.
‘A Billion Lives’
Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills