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« Something for the weekend | Main | Crimes and misdemeanours - British Transport Police targets smoking on trains »

No excuse

A round of applause for the handful of e-cigarette advocates who are actively supporting the UK launch of A Billion Lives.

The pro-vaping documentary finally makes its UK cinema debut next week.

Ignore the cancellation of screenings in Manchester and Preston. In Scotland the Glasgow Braehead screening is going ahead on Wednesday (October 26) with 77/100 tickets sold.

Credit to organiser Andy Morrison.

Vapers have also risen to the challenge in Wales with a screening in Swansea on November 23 almost certain to reach its target thanks to Vapers In Power (Wales) and some local vape stores.

Elsewhere the news isn't so good.

Screenings in Tamworth (eleven tickets sold) and Worcester (two) on November 1 both look doomed. Lincoln, on the same date, has sold 19 tickets but needs to sell 40 more.

Three tickets have been sold in Bracknell (November 3), four in Bristol (November 7).

A screening in Greenwich on November 16 has sold 25 tickets and should reach its target of 61, but Newark (November 3), Belfast (November 14) and Hatfield (November 16) have sold the sum total of 0 tickets.

That's right, zero, zilch, nada.

With a few noted exceptions I'm astounded the UK's leading vaping advocates have shown so little interest in organising their own screening or promoting someone else's. (The occasional tweet doesn't count. Getting out of bed takes more effort.)

Compare this to the effort that has gone into organising screenings of the film in LA and New York City next week. According to director Aaron Biebert:

October 26th is our global launch day. We will kick off the launch with our Hollywood Premiere at the famous Cinerama Dome Theatre on Sunset Blvd and a smaller after-party on top the W Hollywood Hotel for invited media, celebs, and special guests.

We'll have a huge red carpet at the theater for media to get pictures and footage of the attendees. Getty will be there. LA Weekly will be reviewing the film. It's on the calendar for the LA Times.

Two days later on October 28th, we'll be headed to NYC for our New York City Premiere and Media Panel at the Cinépolis Chelsea. Thanks to planning committee chairman Jeff Stier, this event will be a massive success. I'll be interviewed on The Street TV. The New York Times will be covering the film, so will The Village Voice.

After the premiere, we'll have a panel for the media that is moderated by a Forbes writer, including: "Winston Man" David Goerlitz, Dr. Sally Satel MD, and myself.

Now that's the sort of event that could and should be happening in London.

NYC planning committee chairman Jeff Stier is someone I know a little because each year we bump into one another at the Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum. A few months ago he was also a guest at the Forest Freedom Dinner.

Jeff is an impressive advocate and organiser. But he's not unique. I've lost count of the number of UK-based bodies that advocate vaping, some of them funded by the e-cigarette industry. Where is their 'Jeff Stier'? Where is their planning committee?

Meanwhile, commenting on my own (aborted) attempt to organise a screening in central London, Liisa in Norway wrote:

I'm sorry to hear that because this movie is very important for us to get out to the public as well as to press and politicians. Here in Norway we took matters in our own hands and rented a movie theater so we have our Norwegian premiere in Oslo November 14th. We really hope for attendance by press & politicians!

To which I replied:

That's exactly what vaping advocates should have done in the UK. For whatever reason - incompetence, apathy etc - they didn't. I was happy to host a central London screening with a Q&A but you have to understand that my job is to protect the rights of adults who choose to smoke and don't want to quit so there's a limit to how far I'll go to promote a film with a questionable title based on crude WHO propaganda!

That's my excuse. The UK vaping industry and its leading protagonists have none.

To be fair the problem is not exclusive to the UK. See this powerful diatribe – #ABillionLives and the #teamfreeshit Brigade (VapeMeStoopid).

What I detect in the UK however is a lack of leadership and imagination. For whatever reason no-one in the UK vaping community grasped the initiative or saw the opportunity for an LA or NYC style premiere.

Whether that's due to complacency, born of the UK's relatively liberal attitude to e-cigarettes, I don't know. It's still a lost opportunity though.

Finally, there must be some readers who are utterly confused by my position on A Billion Lives. After all, I've made it clear that I have reservations about the film yet here I am banging on about other people's failure to promote it.

Does that make me a hypocrite? Possibly. 

Perhaps I'll reconsider after I've reviewed the film in Scotland next week.

Watch this space.

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Reader Comments (13)

For me, personally, I am VERY tired of all the effort we have expended in the last several years - very tired. I've come to a grinding halt.

A Billion Lives title puts me off big-time. I've seen snippets and, to me, it's another smokers-basher movie presenting all the crud we hear from the Tobacco Control Industry. The makers delayed showing it here. You can't get it free. They are just wanting to make money. They made an error in all these things - because we've just seen the French Movie - Beyond the Cloud - excellent! and shared it big time, for free on YouTube.

I live in an awkward place, as many of us do - not near a big centre. Couldn't be bothered to trog out to watch a movie called A Billion Lives -some figure pulled out of the air by the harm-reduction people? Unless it appears on my computer for free!

I think vapers and smokers have had enough bashing.

Well I have.

And that's MY feeling on why the response might be so pathetic. We got left last in the queue of A Million Lives world tour. And in between, here, they got pipped at the post by the French!

Thursday, October 20, 2016 at 19:31 | Unregistered Commentervapingpoint

The people who would love to go are probably so skint due to all the taxing going on.

Thursday, October 20, 2016 at 23:57 | Unregistered CommenterRobbed by Banks

Maybe smokers and vapors already know the score and just don`t need reminding of just how corrupt the system really is?

Put it up on the net for free and ask for small donations or contributions,also let people have the ability to comment.

Friday, October 21, 2016 at 0:07 | Unregistered CommenterExhausted by Outrage

I won't be watching the film (free or otherwise) because, as Liz points out, the title more or less says it all and the slick 90 sec trailer is enough to confirm it (FFS, is that St Clive complaining about Public Health Liars?).

Friday, October 21, 2016 at 15:18 | Unregistered Commenterdavid

As an ecig user (and advocate if you like) I did what I was able to do to spread the word about the (now cancelled) screening in Tamworth.

We used the stage at Vaper Expo at the NEC last week to tell hundreds, if not thousands of local vapers about it and sadly only 12 people apart from myself signed up.

So in this specific case, we got the message out to enough people but it seems that vapers weren't interested. Still scratching my head as to why....

I have some reservations about the title and the WHO bullsh*t referenced, that's part of the reason I want to see the rest of it before I draw too many conclusions.

Monday, October 24, 2016 at 22:51 | Unregistered CommenterDaveK

Whilst I agree with the gist + tone of this Simon. I believe that the following phrase is open to interpretation

'''I've lost count of the number of UK-based bodies that advocate vaping, some of them funded by the e-cigarette industry.''

This does not apply to any consumer led advocate body, you are referring to trade bodies like ECITA,IBVTA. which exist to represent(and advocate) their e-cig industry members. Consumers have been accused of 'astroturf' by opponents in previous years,you by this imprecise wording inadvertently could fuel a repeat. Your blogs undoubtedly are scrutinised by opponents,please correct the unintended misunderstanding

Alan B

Monday, October 24, 2016 at 23:37 | Unregistered CommenterAlan Beard

The failure might be a failure of advocates to spell out why vapers should care. I just wrote about this:

Monday, October 24, 2016 at 23:50 | Unregistered CommenterLiam Bryan

A wee bit more in a blog.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016 at 3:10 | Unregistered CommenterAlan Beard

Alan, with regard to the individuals you mention in your blog post,, they may have a connection with the NNA but it's wrong to give any credit to the NNA for what little promotional activity has taken place.

I've just checked the NNA's Twitter feed. Going back to the end of August there is not a single tweet or RT promoting the film. I haven't gone back any further.

The screening in Wales states quite clearly that it is promoted by Vapers in Power Wales. There is not a single screening in the UK promoted by the NNA or any other pro-vaping body other than VIP.

What little promotion there has been (by bodies such as the IBVTA) has been very last minute. Although the Demand.Film initiative was only announced six weeks ago pro-vaping organisations have been aware of this documentary for months - the world premiere in New Zealand took place in May, almost six months ago - so there is no excuse for the lack of an official UK or London premiere.

Neither local organisers nor vapers are to blame. I know how apathetic people are so the target should have been a single high profile event in London to which MPs and the national media were invited. The New York template (screening plus Q&A) would have been perfect for London.

Ideally further screenings would have been organised in Edinburgh (to target MSPs) and Cardiff (AMs) but there has been no plan, no strategy, no coordination, no leadership. Credit to those few individuals who have made a success of screenings in Braehead (Glasgow) and Swansea but the truth is it's too little too late.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016 at 8:59 | Unregistered CommenterSimon


Who are you trying to kid? You have zero interest in actually helping, you're using this as an opportunity to gloat whilst keeping your funders on the edge of what's happening.

You work for an industry funded lobbying group, you have the luxury of time and being in the right places.

The NNA is a charity with mixed funding and not much of that. Why do you think a small group of unpaid volunteers are going to be able to do that?

The responsibility falls PRECISELY with vendors. They generally are not promoting this or any other form of advocacy work. But then, there's no "Big Vape". Other than the tobacco companies circling for what they can pick off.

Do everyone a favour, stick your nose back where it's tolerated. I never particularly felt you represented me when I was a smoker, I certainly don't now.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016 at 11:03 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Summers

I will correct you about the Swansea screening.

As Alan points out in his blog post, the Swansea screening is CO-HOSTED by both myself and Rhydian as we both requested a screening in Swansea and the cinema asked if we would combine both requests into a single one.

The fact that the host is listed as Vapers In Power is purely down to the fact that I was away on holiday when the screening was confirmed and so Rhydian suggested that Vapers In Power should be the name used.

Personally, I don't care much for publicity and for that reason I was perfectly happy to go along with having Vapers In Power as the hosts.

I am well aware that you might not know that I sit on the board of Trustees for the NNA, but the fact remains that when the Swansea screening takes place it will be dual-hosted by Rhydian and I and therefore dual-hosted by Vapers In Power AND the NNA.

As for publicising it, you quite obviously do not follow my Twitter handle very closely as I have been banging on about Welsh Vapers supporting the Swansea screening for some considerable amount of time. I just prefer to do so from my personal Twitter account rather than use the NNA one (rather like you Tweet mostly from your personal account rather than the FOREST twitter account).

Wednesday, October 26, 2016 at 11:20 | Unregistered CommenterSimon T

Thanks for explaining that, Simon. None of it however explains why the NNA or any other vaping advocacy body isn't hosting a London premiere (to which MPs and national media could have been invited) nor why the NNA has failed to promote the documentary on Twitter. I'm curious, that's all.

John, the funding argument doesn't work in this instance. It costs NOTHING to host a screening of A Billion Lives via Demand.Film.

As for this being my business, an increasing number of Forest supporters are dual users, many more are smokers and therefore potential vapers, hence my interest. Most important, however, I support choice and personal responsibility in many areas and this is just one of them. I had no idea that tolerance/promotion of vaping was a closed shop but thank you for implying that it is.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016 at 13:40 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

It is very much your business, Simon, and as a lifelong smoker I can state there is no other organisation that has my consent to speak with my voice.

As for funding, well, some people should just grow up. Ecig companies couldn't care less about the health of smokers. They wouldn't give a toss if they weren't after the smoker pound and converting smokers to vapers to boost their industry. They are not doing it from the good of their heart but because they compete with tobacco companies and have everything to gain by supporting the crap on smoking and smokers to sell more of their product - the risks of which will not be known for some years yet despite what they claim.

There are smokers who felt Forest did not represent them when the socially exclusive ban came in because Forest's voice - and therefore our voice - was drowned out by pure scaremongering propaganda and twisted stats and not challenged as vociferously as some of us would have liked - and it wasn't a left-wing activist organisation staging demos or holding banners high in protest outside tents in Trafalgar Square or the HoC.

A smoker turned vaper has the cheek to say a smoker's organisation doesn't speak for smokers. Read this very carefully - YOU ARE NOT A SMOKER. You didn't have the stomach for the fight yourself when you were a smoker and now, as a non smoker, you blame the only organisation in existence that speaks for smokers.

Part of our problem now is vapers saying they speak for smokers when often we couldn't disagree more but they are fooling politicians into thinking we all want to vape to be "saved" (halle-bloody-lujah) .

Simon and Forest, however, speak for smokers who vape as well as smokers who smoke.

If vapers and orgs like the NNA weren't so bloody sanctimonious or smokerphobic then perhaps as one strong united group we could all have our choices and fight for us both to enjoy them. ... but then that wouldn't put money into the Ecig industry pockets.

Thursday, October 27, 2016 at 14:42 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

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