No excuse
Thursday, October 20, 2016 at 17:38
Simon Clark

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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