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A Billion Lives & The Winston Man: The Exclusive Interview

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Estimated 28 min read

It has now been a year since I interviewed Aaron Biebert from A Billion Lives, Norwegian professor on tobacco research Karl E. Lund, and ‘The Winston Man’ David Goerlitz.

A Billion Lives

 

Introduction

The video of this interview was supposed to be aired, but as we all know, the media is having a hard time swallowing the truth. Especially when politicians, the FDA, and the pharmaceutical companies keep lying about the positive effects that vaping has had on the smokers who’ve managed to quit with the use of vape.

I have now taken the matter into my own hands and transcribed my interview with A Billion Lives and David Goerlitz (the former Winston man) so that this could be published no matter what happens to the video-interview. I do have a copy of the actual interview as well, but it has watermarks so that I would not be able to air it properly. I will do everything I can to get the actual interview on the air.

We are in Norway; we had just watched the premier of A Billion Lives and the interview took place right after the premiere.

A Billion Lives:
http://abillionlives.com/
A Billion Lives blu ray:
http://abillionlives.com/buy-blu-ray/

 

This is my interview with A Billion Lives in Norway.

Interviewer: Bård Marius Malmin
Interviewing: David Goerlitz (The Winston Man), Aaron Biebert (A Billion Lives) and Karl E. Lund (Norwegian professor on tobacco research)

Read Time: 25 minutes

NOTE: This interview is transcribed directly, with all syntax kept intact. It has not been edited for readability.

 


 

We sat down and started the interview…

Marius:
All right, question concerning the W.H.O. Why wasn’t the press allowed at the meetings?

Biebert:
Well, that’s a great question. They don’t allow the press and they say because they are trying to limit the influence of industry they say. I personally don’t think that makes any sense what so ever because ultimately tax dollars are funding the people to go to these events from all the countries. And they are essentially making laws for people but they don’t allow any media in to allow for the public to scrutinize what they are doing. They say no industry influence, but they do allow in delegates from countries that own big tobacco and they also allow in delegates that are funded by big pharmaceutical countries.

David:
The other thing I found out when I was reading about it and listening to a couple of reporters. They were all invited, they had press rooms for them, they had badges for them. The first day they had to sign in and they had to wait several hours in the cue to get through because they were letting all the delegates in and it was a three and a half hour process. The frustration was building up quickly so I think that some of the questions that were asked in the very early stages became very intimidating for some of these delegates so they decided that this is not looking good for us, so we might as well ban them right out. They weren’t banned from the beginning like I was, they were just banned a day after they got there. So that’s what really created all the scandal. Cause, like he said, they were afraid of tobacco industry influence, that somebody was going to sneak in and infiltrate.

Marius:
The next question would be, why are news and media, the news, spreading all this scare-mongering about vaping all the time?

Biebert:
Well, I mean, I’m in the media myself and I would say that the number one reason the media does that is because nothing sells more, or nothing gets more “clicks”, than bad news. You know all these people saying; “vaping might kill you” like now all the people who smoke, vape, or have loved ones that use vapor technology are all clicking on that and not reading it. That’s good for advertisements. This is probably the main reason they spread all the negativity, but a lot of the media, big advertisers are pharmaceutical industry and in the United States the number two highest amount of advertisements comes from the pharmaceutical industries. Those are the people who have been funding a lot of the anti vapor technology propaganda and they are also funding the newspapers and the TV stations. You have those two combined and it is very difficult to get attention to the truth because it’s not convenient.

David:
Not to mention that the tobacco industry also owns thirty three hundred companies that are tobacco related by ownership, they are into biscuit crackers, oreo cookies and jello pudding pie filling. So all these people are advertising these major markets that Aaron is talking about so they don’t like to get a slap on the wrist by saying “you’re giving us negative publicity for our parent company”. So that is another reason not to mention the failure of tobacco control for many years with billions of dollars of wasted money on prevention and all the other things they were going to use money for. They failed terribly because we still have 18 to 20 percent of kids smoking combustible tobacco. We haven’t stopped that so they had to blame somebody, so let’s blame the vaping community who are now trying to “renormalize” smoking and target and market to kids with all these flavours is all nonsense. So they find a way to do it because of all the money, and it always comes back to money. They are just taking press releases written by American cancer, lung, heart or national cancer institute and they just print it. They haven’t even read it, they haven’t even fact checked it, they just send it right out there.

Marius:
You guys actually already started talking a bit about this but, who is benefitting from the TPD?

Karl:
Certainly not the smokers. That’s for sure. I would say that tobacco companies and maybe the pharmaceutical industries are benefitting from the TPD. I can’t see, really, any benefit for the smokers in the tobacco product directive.

Biebert:
Yeah, and I mean, I believe it was one of the UK papers, intercepted a memo from Glaxosmithkline where they were lobbying the European union parlament against us, and they don’t even have products, they have no reason to do that other than for competitive reasons. They sell a lot of nicotine gum patches and all that, and as long as people aren’t allowed to use the main alternative for that, which would be the vapor technology, they keep making billions of dollars from it. That’s probably it, and cigarettes keep selling so everyone wins pretty much but the smokers themselves.

David:
Again, they just get thrown under the bus at every turn you know, its obscene. If you’d believe the truth, we have a scientist here whom I am sure is aware of the fact that nicotine may not be totally good for you but certainly is not what kills people who smoke, and when you hear the shocking evidence from a doctor that says seventy percent of doctors think it is a carcinogen… What school did they go to? Where did they get this information? And I know people at the bottom of their class when they graduate, at the very bottom, they are still called doctors but you would think that they are somewhere in between. That these doctors, not seventy percent, would know the truth about this. I know it is addictive just like caffeine but why they are considering constantly talking about it as being a carcinogen and that is what is killing people is just horrible. We are better public health officials out here now trying to do for the public more so than the public officials who are getting paid. So I just get very upset with that and that’s why it is so important for the media to tell the truth, because we know I am not a sound bite, Aaron is not a sound bite , this information is not a sound bite but that’s all they want ’cause they don’t want to do a lot of work, ’cause it creates a lot of scandal and they don’t want to have to follow it up because of the reasons we talked about.

Karl:
E-cigarettes have been on the market since, what is it? 2007.

David:
2006… 2007.

Karl:
So there is not a long period of observation. In the case of “snus”, we have had snus on the market for forty years so we have all the data for snus and we know that putting… consumption of snus you get nicotine through blood vessels  in the mouth, it’s way down there on the risk scale so you look at the Swedish and they got one third of the lung cancer incidents in what is the average in Europe, and they are also very low on heart disease. That is because they are consuming tobacco as “snus”. So in Norway we will probably have two harm reducing alternatives on the market. We will have the vaping products which will be allowed now from the next year, and we will have “snus”. So, probably we can see a move on the market from nine to five percent of the combustible products moving towards a level with huge impact on health.

Biebert:
Yeah, that would be great.

Marius:
So how should vaping be regulated to benefit public health and save a billion lives.

Karl:
Well, I mean, we should go and look what the experience in the UK is where e-cigarettes have been regulated as a consumer product. And I think that has been available for smokers. It’s not regulated as a tobacco product and is not banned as it is in many other countries. I think the experience in the UK is something to look into and to benefit from.

Biebert:
Regulation is really just adding quality measures and that kind of stuff. That’s about it. I mean really, I think as much regulation as they put on e-cigarettes which is pretty much openly free to kill half their users. They certainly should be adding more regulations on that which is what you find in some countries where they are banning it or making it so difficult that it is being, basically, prohibited. Like in the United States where they estimate about ninety percent of the products are going to go off-market because they are over-regulating.

David:
Everybody you talk to is in an authoritative position in the health community, like the CDC or the American heart lung, they say we don’t know the long term effects of vaping yet. Well, we know the long term effects of smoking and they are still allowing that with no ban whatsoever. We have 245 million American dollars being taken from tax payers to run studies on vaping. How much money do you have to spend to test five ingredients, in any combinations, in any form? Five, maybe six, because there is no burning, there is no tar, there is no arcenic and cienic and formaldehyde and benzene so I’d say take the money you do have from tax payers, put it into studies. It shouldn’t take that long. If you can fast-track “chantix”, which is supposedly a tobacco harm reduction product that has been proven used on people who have suicidal thoughts. They fast-track that, they can do the same thing with something that we know has long term effects. That is the downside, people who vape probably will continue to never smoke again but will continue to vape. So, they need to stop lying and they need to start using the research we have just like in the UK with the royal collagen physicians. At least look at it. Look at the evidence and weigh it instead of just coming right out and say “no”. Because the reasons that we know they are saying “no”, is all because of the money.

Marius:
We are talking about corruption and how much corruption there is about vaping and the vapor technology. Who is corrupted?

Biebert:
Certainly look at these lung associations or cancer societies all over the world who are getting a lot of funding from pharmaceutical companies. There is no reason why they should be encouraging bans on this sort of thing. They do all this research they say on cancer, but they don’t do any research on these potential solutions to cancer that would prevent cancer. They don’t do any research what so ever on that stuff and they come out and they say these things that scare people and they are not using them. Ultimately a lot of the things we see with the politicians are because of groups like that that are health charities, health NGO’s but they don’t even know the science on this or they do know and are being dishonest about it. Anytime you are being paid by a competitor of a product and you come out and advocate against another product that competes with the people that is giving you money, that is corruption of their core mission. So you have situations where politicians are getting funding from pharmaceutical companies from, in some cases, tobacco companies, from a lot of different groups, that’s very clear if you look into US politics, they are getting money from all kinds of groups that have invested interest in this discussion, and anytime you are getting money from competing products that causes a problem there too.

Marius:
Okay. This documentary is shedding light on a lot of important things. Do you think there is a real possibility for Big Government to retreat or did they obligate themselves to carry this on for years and years to come?

Biebert:
I don’t think it’s too late. I never do, I mean if you look at Australia they are beginning to reverse their situation there after we put a lot of pressure on them. Countries are changing all over the world right now to adopt the science and the US will come back around. I’m very confident and I believe that Europe will also come around. They made a terrible mistake and at the end of the day these are democracies and people, once they understand the truth, which is why the media is so vital that the truth gets out there because once the truth is out there the politics will follow. But right now that’s the big problem, the truth is not getting out there.

Marius:
Exactly, so how is the feedback from the industry? Have negative scientists changed attitude in the past year?

Biebert:
Well around here I don’t know. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Marius:
Do you think so?

Karl:
The attitudes, well I think so. I think we have to believe in the rationality in the human being and I think we are providing mighty more perceptions trying to provide the government beurocrats and our politicians with the facts like; who are the users? Who are the vapers?, and see that 95 or 80 percent are smokers or former smokers. But they are very frightened of “never smokers” going into the population as vapers. So providing them with this information I think could change attitudes. I think what we see now in Norway is some willingness to allow some market competition in favour of e-cigarettes before tobacco cigarettes. They are going to regulate e-cigarettes as a tobacco product, but they will exempt it from the display ban, and that’s going to put a very high tax on the vape products from what we are seeing now. So there is some willingness to allow some favourable competition for market competition for e-cigarettes.

Marius:
Like you say, we have seen… if not major changes, we have seen changes in attitude of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health among the 915 consultation responses, Karl Erik Lund. What happened and what do you expect the reaction from the Government, Bent Høie the politician, and how do you think the future for e-cigarettes will be in Norway?

Karl:
Well, I think the future for e-cigarettes in Norway should be better than it has been in the past because we have a stupid regulation from 1999 saying that any new nicotine product on the market should be banned. But when they made this regulation they did not know the future of e-cigarettes, so when e-cigarettes came along they used this stupid regulation to ban this product. What we see now is that we are going to lift that ban but replace it with the tobacco product directive, and also replace it with some regulations for regulating this as a tobacco product which is not good. But, this is what our government should decide in the beginning of December 2016, so time will show.

David:
I don’t think there is anybody in the vaping industry worldwide that wants teenagers or minors to vape. I think every vaper is all for reasonable regulation ’cause I certainly would like to know what’s going into my body if I’m vaping or if my friend is. Certainly we have reasonable requests in requirements that are going to have to come from the vaping community. We are willing to give them, we have most of them already with scientists who have given great thought to this and great time and effort. I just wish they would look at it, that’s the problem. It there. We know what’s in it, we don’t know the long term effects but we know the long term effects of smoking, like I said before. It kills you. This may not kill you. I think that should be applauded and embraced a little more that they have and I think that’s what the problem with the vaping community is. They haven’t even tried. They haven’t even looked at the evidence that is substantial and already there. They just don’t like the results. That’s the problem.

Marius:
Exactly, ’cause we are talking about the health benefits, we are not talking about what they’re talking about.

David:
Exactly.

Marius:
”The hype”, the danger that teenagers will think of this as.

Biebert:
It’s unfounded.

Marius:
The new thing.

David:
It’s obscene for them, I spent 17 years trying to get kids to never smoke cigarettes, and for them to think that I would align myself with something that would try to entice and encourage, lure, teens to become vapers, it just makes me so angry ’cause I would never ever do that. This is not for teenagers, it is for adults who want to transition over to save and enhance the quality of their life. Bottom line, it is not profound, it’s very simple.

Marius:
Goerlitz?

David:
Goerlitz.

Marius:
Goerlitz, the Winston man

David:
Former.

Marius:
The former Winston man.

David:
Right.

Marius:
I’m really amazed by how open you are and how well you say what you say. Can you tell us about how you changed the attitude towards tobacco and how you became part of the film “A Billion Lives”?

David:
Well, that’s an easy one. When I quit smoking I said in the film I’d struggled many times. I even became a smoker again after I quit. But I was also going around the country telling kids not to start. So I had this double-wammy. I didn’t smoke a lot but I would get stressed so I was always aware of the fact that I wish I had something that was going to make my transition a lot easier. We didn’t have vaping when I quit back in 1988-90. So, when I found out about the vaping alternative which I was intrigued by because I had the hand-to-mouth experience. You got the nicotine, you got the “cool” with it still and this was out all over. It was awful. They were terrible. They were not good. They weren’t the second, third, fourth and fifth generation devices that we have now. But it was still something that I enjoyed because I still wanted to cheat once in a while, ’cause once in a while you have a beer, you wanna have a cigarette, you have some stress, so I found this to be an alternate for me that I tried a couple of times. Not a lot, I didn’t get hooked on it because I didn’t want to have nicotine in my system so I would vape zero nicotine. I just did it for the cool factor. I met somebody who wanted me to be in the documentary in France. I figured the gentleman’s name was John, John Cunan maybe. But then I heard about this guy. There was a guy from Wisconsin, a cheese head. He was from cheese state and he was going to be doing a film and I think I called him, I think I e-mailed him and said “this is who I am”, would you be interested in talking to me? Because I would rather speak to somebody in America than somebody from France. Personally I thought it would be something I would rather do in my own country. So we got together. I was on vacation in Virginia and he said he was going to be coming around in that area so could I talk to him for a little bit. I thought it would be just another “snippet”, another sound bite for a film that I’d be in for a minute or two as “fluff”. Kind of like the pole dancer you take to a convention for entertainment because I had a little bit of a celebrity status and he was interviewing scientists and doctors and world health organization directors. So I’m in some pretty fine company here so this guy must want to give me ten minutes of my time. He comes to my house in august 2015, sets up, moves all my furniture, moves my rugs. Takes everything out of the rom. Sets up a chair, turns it this way. Wants to light a fire when it’s 94 degrees in the summer time in my house. I said; “this is going to be nuts”. I called my wife, “don’t come home, we’ve got wackos here”. That’s how it started. Then this man sat, faced me this far away from where you and I are sitting. He asked me one question. He said; “Tell me about yourself”, and I went on for about eight hours. Nonstop. All we did to stop was go to the bathroom and change film. So we hit it off right away because he wasn’t there just for “form over substance”, he wanted the substance of who I was. And that is what I was able to give him. If that makes sense.

Marius:
That makes sense.

David:
Ok.

Marius:
Absolutely.

Marius:
I also heard a rumour that you were denied access into India?

David:
Its freaking true.

Marius:
Its freaking true.

David:
A week before we were going to India I was asked to get a visa. I had never travelled to India. I didn’t know the visa requirements, contacted his office in Milwakee and he said, “you need a visa”. I went online, did my thing. Took my passport picture, took my passport cause I had two pictures. One was just a picture that they put inside the passport. And then the original. I downloaded both like they told me. I put it on the computer and I paid the 62 dollars and I’m waiting for my visa, like his office did. Three days later, three days before we’re supposed to go away, I get a phone call that they rejected my passport because it was to blurry on the picture cause it was a passport picture made by the US passport department. So, I resubmitted it. They told me to re-download it and I did it that day within ten hours. They told me I had forty eight. And within ten hours I redid it and then the day before we’re supposed to leave in the middle of the night apparently cause of the timezone, I was sleeping, I wake up to the fact that my visa was rejected with no explanation what so ever. I called his office and that got everyone upset out there cause we’re supposed to leave in the next twenty eight hours or whatever. Didn’t know what to do. So I redid it again. He said he’d pay for it. And the same thing happened. I was told when I called the visa office that it was a special problem. They would get it to me before I would get into India. They would e-mail it to me cause that’s how it is now. So we went to Chicago, flew out to Istanbul for our first leg of it and then we were supposed to get on a plane at eleven o’clock. They wouldn’t let me on the plane so I had to say goodbye to my friends while I was in Istanbul. They would not let me on board. He tried to use some positive psychology to let me through and we’d work it out when we get to India. There was a deck there we could go and explain, I had all the paper work. It didn’t work out and they kept saying that my picture was blurry and nobody else thought it was blurry. So that’s what happened, so I don’t know how to explain it to you other than the fact that I feel it was deliberate and personal. Do you?

Biebert:
Yeah.

Marius:
Aaron Biebert, major challenges in travelling to India I understand, problems with currency, but the worst was that your experiences with the WHO meeting in India exceeded even your worst expectations?

Biebert:
Yeah, I mean, when you see they reject the media and then they allow people from the American cancer society and a Canadian cancer society when they get millions of US dollars in funding. And are basically against vaper technology which is going to be debated. And, yeah I thought maybe they would just have delegates from these countries there. I didn’t realize they were going to have all these other people that have all these conflict of interests. So I thought maybe they ban the media, but maybe they ban everybody. But it was they only pick and choose who they ban and that I think to me was worse than I thought would be the case.

David:
If I could say something, I always do. You guys sat a 23 delegation from the campaign for tobacco free kids. US is not even a member of the framework convention on tobacco control. Why are they there?

Biebert:
In that particular, NGO’s was created by a big pharmaceutical company foundation so you know, that industry is not influencing things. I’m not buying it. There is a lot of industry influence, it’s just not one of the industries but they certainly have lots of industry influence there. That’s really sad.

Marius:
It is. Do you think the movie has gotten any government to reconsider their legislation on vaping?

Biebert:
Yeah, I mean it already has and New Zealand has switched after our movie came out there. A lot of officials there know a lot of people from Australia. They are now reconsidering their ban. A Hungarian member of parliament was there at our premiere and just gave a speech yesterday. Talking about how important it is to take care of our neighbours, and to use science, and so I know that all over the world we are having… we’re hoping to wake up people who care about their neighbours and who want to care about science, because there are a lot of good politicians, and there’s a lot of good people in the media who care, and they are starting to wake up saying; “hey, we can’t have all these conflicts of interest, we can’t be listening to propaganda coming out of corrupt United States organizations or EU organizations”. We have to care more than that, we can’t just take what we’re giving, we have to do a little more research. Things are changing. I’m confident that they will change.

Marius:
You have been around. Which countries have the worst conditions for e-cigarettes versus which countries are the most liberal you think today?

Biebert:
Well in Australia they have a hotline. In certain parts of the country you can call to report your neighbours for vaping. So that’s pretty bad if you ask me. I think currently even in Norway they are banning liquids that has nicotine in them. There is no science to that and obviously that’s going to be changing soon. I think that’s great. But currently, Norway is one of the worst countries I would say. The best country is probably the United Kingdom, they are taking a very science based approach. They have sixty million people in their country. Ten million of those people are smokers. That number is dropping rapidly because right now two and a half million smokers have become vapers now. And I think that we’ll see France coming along quickly behind them as a leader, and others are following. The science will be getting on board with this very soon.

Marius:
Since you mentioned Norway as the worst, I don’t know if there is an answer for this yet but, how does the Norwegian authorities look into corruption allegations in medicine and tobacco industry. Do you know anything about this Karl?

Karl:
I don’t know anything about that. I don’t know if they are familiar with the problem, so they should have seen this movie and then they should have been more educated on the matter.

Marius:
Do you think that if any Norwegian politicians would have been there today and seen the documentary that this could have made changes in Norwegian Politics regarding the regulations on vaping?

David:
Kind of depends on who you ask.

Karl:
Well. There were some representatives from health authorities here, some very important persons here. They have, before this, shown some willingness to get into the matter. But I think the worst enemy is the ignorance of some politicians and the second enemy is that they simply don’t care because it’s so comfortable for them to adopt to the tobacco productive directive. It’s simply there. Just “put” it into the Norwegian system and forget. We don’t want to problematize this so the ignorance and that they don’t care, that is the problem. I don’t know, some of them are so preoccupied by their ideology and really some of them want a nicotine free society and in that society the vaping products have no existence.

Biebert:
Well, one thing I would say, if politicians were willing to come to the movie, they probably already would be aware of all the information they need to be aware of so I don’t know if that would have helped, or not helped but ultimately what we need is people making laws that understand what they are talking about before they make the laws. They need to be educated one way or the other wether it’s thru a movie or just thru talking to scientists. I think that it going to be the key for them that they need to do some research on this and actually listen to all the different sides that are talking.

Marius:
My last question. What if, cause I’m a bit disappointed there was no media or journalists here…

David:
Join the club.

Marius:
Yeah, so if there would have been, could that have made more of a difference than a politician?

Biebert:
Yes, I think it is important that the media needs to understand this issue, because it is projected at a billion people will essentially die from smoking. This is probably one of the biggest health crises in the history of the world. And yet it seems like the media is content to take press releases fed to them from corrupt organizations that just put it on as news. That is not okay, because ultimately democracy depends on good media.

David:
Truth would need it to.

Biebert:
And right now I don’t think that they need to do more research. They missed an opportunity, but if any of them want to see the movie we will be more than happy to give them a screener. Maybe we can help.

Marius:
That’s great. Thank you very much for letting me interview you and coming here.

David:
Welcome.

Biebert:
Thank you for being a part of this. A great honour.

David:
Thank you very much.

 


If you would like to contact us regarding this exclusive interview, please get in touch at info@vapetrotter.com.

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