Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha

Johannesburg - The jury may still be out on vaping, but documentary film director Aaron Biebert believes that it could save lives.

A Billion Lives is his hard-hitting short film that’s being aired at the fifth annual Jozi Film Festival at Rosebank’s Cinema Nouveau.

Biebert’s film takes on what he calls the relentless efforts by pharmaceutical companies, anti-smoking advocacy groups, tobacco companies and governments around the world to distort information about vapour technology.

“We have known for a long time that the burning of tobacco creates all the carcinogens that are not good for our bodies. With vaping, there is none of that.

“The technology behind vaping machines is not new and we all know that it does not involve tar or harmful substances. However, there are people who don't want this truth to come to light,” he said.

Biebert, who flew across four continents to promote the documentary, said while he has never touched a cigarette or tried an e-cigarette, he had experienced immense loss in his life.

It's what prompted him to make the film.

A colleague and a mentor of his was diagnosed with lung cancer a few years ago and later died.

“As he got cancer I noticed he kept smoking and I always thought that was so silly. For someone to keep doing something that was ending their life was tough to watch. He deteriorated very quickly. It was devastating.

“Now, if you think about a billion people going through that, one realises the importance of telling the public about alternatives such as vapour smoking,” he said.

A Billion Lives received the Supreme Jury Prize and Best Director awards at the 2016 Melbourne Documentary Film Festival and continues to cause waves at various international film festivals.

Biebert said he didn’t anticipate the positive response. His film does market vaping products heavily, but he said: “I’m not an advocate for these companies, but I am an advocate of trapped smokers who want to quit.”

The documentary also features interviews with leading scientists, doctors, technologists, policy-makers and health organisations, including two South African doctors who speak on the relevance of vaping in today’s society.

“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.

The burning of tobacco creates all the carcinogens that are not good for our bodies, says film director Aaron Biebert. With vaping, there is none of that, though there are those who don’t want this truth to come to light, he says.

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Saturday Star