Vaping

The Vaping Crisis Is a Moral Panic Led by Anti-Smoking Crusaders

Anti-smoking advocacy groups have a long history of exploiting shoddy science for political gain.

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You have probably heard about a so-called "vaping health crisis," complete with "horror stories" that are growing worse and worse. Over the past few months, more than 1,200 people have become sick and 29 have died from a mysterious acute lung disease. This has led national, state, and local politicians to demand bans on e-cigarettes to protect public health, often invoking emergency powers to implement them.

It has become increasingly clear that the wave of respiratory illnesses alarming health authorities is linked primarily to black market cartridges delivering THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana, rather than the commercial nicotine vapor products that have been used by millions of people in multiple countries for more than a decade. Yet opponents of nicotine use have seized the opportunity to further enflame the moral panic around vaping.

New York, Michigan, D.C., Massachusetts, Washington, and Oregon, among other jurisdictions, are enacting or considering bans on vapor products that will wipe out small businesses and deprive cigarette smokers of safer alternatives. In Michigan, the penalty for violating the ban includes a prison term of up to six months, a sentence that could apply to teens as young as seventeen years old, and police are being mobilized to enforce the ban in stores throughout the state. Meanwhile, the media have frequently failed to differentiate between black market cannabis and legal nicotine vapor products, obscuring the actual cause of the disease and exacerbating the public's misperceptions of the relative risks of smoking and vaping.

To those who haven't had reason to pay attention to tobacco policy prior to the current controversy, this unhinged response to vaping may seem bewildering. As far as we know, flavored e-cigarettes aren't killing people. Dubiously sourced marijuana products are. 

But to those of us who have covered tobacco debates for much longer, what we're witnessing is painfully familiar. The anti-smoking movement has a long history of exploiting dubious science for political gain. Today's moral panic about vaping has its roots in the decades-long campaign to delegitimize the use of nicotine in pursuit of total bans on public smoking.

This relationship was made clear in a recent congressional hearing about vaping. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D–Mich.), who in the past has claimed that it's a "lie" to say that vaping is better than smoking, bizarrely asked one witness who testified to having quit smoking using e-cigarettes whether she was a conspiracy theorist. Tlaib also claimed that secondhand smoke is "worse than directly smoking cigarettes," a remark she subsequently defended on Twitter

Scientifically speaking, that assertion is as embarrassingly uninformed as anything one might hear from a Republican congressman in a hearing about climate change. The fact that it came from a House Oversight Committee member is a signal that the people in charge are grossly misinformed about the most basic details about the toxicology of smoking.

The 2006 Surgeon General's report concludes that long-term exposure to secondhand smoke raises the risk of lung cancer in nonsmokers from 1.12 to 1.43 times that of an unexposed nonsmoker. Studies of direct smoking, by contrast, find relative risks of 10, 20, or 30 times that of a nonsmoker. This isn't a slight difference in degree; the risks of smoking are a level of magnitude higher than the risks of being exposed to passive smoke. Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control estimate that of the 480,000 deaths attributable to smoking in the United States each year, less than a tenth 10th are caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.

None of this is remotely controversial. So how did one of the nation's most vocal anti-smoking legislators come to be so completely, confidently wrong about the facts?

Though Tlaib is mistaken about the science, she was right to note the continuity between today's vaping controversy and past debates about smoking bans. Advocacy for these restrictions was often premised on alarmist research that failed to hold up to replication. One leading researcher, Stanton Glantz of the University of California, San Francisco, suggested in 2003 that banning smoking in bars and restaurants could reduce the population-level rate of heart attacks by 60 percent in just six months; subsequent research has thoroughly debunked this possibility. Anti-smoking groups around the country also asserted that just 30 minutes of smoke exposure could "make coronary artery function of non-smokers indistinguishable from smokers." Another group claimed that just 30 seconds of exposure could do the same. The message was clear: The briefest exposure to secondhand smoke might kill you. And the press left it mostly unquestioned.

Alarmism about secondhand smoke was followed by the invention of a potentially even scarier threat: "thirdhand smoke," the residue left behind on walls, furniture, and clothing when someone smokes nearby. Thirdhand smoke has yet to be implicated as a substantial cause of any human illness, but it has nonetheless been featured in countless news stories for more than a decade. 

In many of these stories, researchers speak of smokers in ways that are clearly meant to stigmatize them. Jonathan Winickoff, a Harvard pediatrician credited with popularizing the concept of thirdhand smoke, told Scientific American in 2009 that "smokers themselves are also contaminated…smokers actually emit toxins." Another researcher referred to smokers as "mobile tobacco contamination packages." Such language portrays smokers as objects of revulsion, their mere existence in social spaces an unhygienic intrusion. Press coverage rarely questions whether the fears and restrictions encouraged by these claims are at all proportional to potential harms.

In his Pulitzer–winning history of the cigarette, Ashes to Ashes (1996), journalist Richard Kluger notes that in early debates over secondhand smoke, health authorities such as C. Everett Koop, who served as surgeon general from 1981 to 1989, got ahead of the evidence in their advocacy of smoking bans. "[Without] a doubt Koop was on the side of the angels," Kluger wrote, "but without much doubt, either, he was in this instance using dubious means—shaky science—to justify the worthy end of achieving a healthier society." 

In the decades since, many scientific claims about secondhand smoke have become even shakier, but most journalists have failed to follow Kluger's example of skeptically reporting them. Because anti-smoking groups are perceived as being "on the side of the angels," they are free to stretch the science without fear of contradiction. They have also become increasingly illiberal, extending the boundaries of these bans far wider than can be plausibly justified by any need to protect non-smokers from harm.

This degradation of science was easy for most people to ignore when it was done in service of the supposedly noble end of passing smoking bans, but the movement's illiberal tendencies are now putting smokers' lives at risk by promoting bans on e-cigarettes.

Researchers who spent their careers demonizing second- and thirdhand smoke are often the source of today's alarmist fears about vaping. Glantz is one of the most reliable critics of e-cigarettes. Winickoff has likened e-cigarettes to "bioterrorism" and now warns against the dangers of thirdhand vapor

The history is clear. Anti-vaping advocacy didn't arise in a vacuum. It is the latest manifestation of a well-funded and ideologically motivated movement dedicated to eradicating recreational nicotine use in any form.

Before the Big Tobacco companies shut down industry-backed research institutes as part of their settlement of state lawsuits in 1998, journalists knew to distrust their statements as likely motivated by self-interest. Taking them at face value would have represented basic neglect in the performance of their jobs. Yet they routinely make this same mistake when reporting on advocacy groups seemingly operating in the public interest. By doing so, they overlook important sources of bias.

Geoffrey Kabat, an epidemiologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, notes in his recent book Getting Risk Right that "the emphasis on financial relationships has created a situation in which advocates with strong partisan views who are aligned with a cause routinely declare 'no conflict of interest' because it does not fit the prevailing narrow definition." Yet ideology can shape perceptions just as surely as financial conflicts. Michael Siegel, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health and a career anti-smoking researcher, describes the current state of tobacco control as "guided more by ideology and politics than by science." This was true during debates about smoking bans, and it's true now in debates about e-cigarettes.

Kabat and Siegel both support indoor smoking bans, but both have been attacked by some peers for questioning the dominant narrative in secondhand smoke research. Siegel sees the same story repeating in the debate over e-cigarettes. "I believe that our movement has largely abandoned truth as a central value in our campaigns against vaping," he wrote in a blog post earlier this year. "Driven by an almost puritanical inability to accept the fact that a person could obtain pleasure from nicotine without it killing them, we have made the demonization of vaping the solitary goal of the movement, at the direct expense of what I always believed was our primary goal: to make smoking history."

Sometimes the conflicts are straightforwardly financial, even on the side of supposed angels. Michael Bloomberg has pledged $160 million to the cause of banning flavored e-cigarettes on top of the nearly $1 billion he has previously contributed to other anti-smoking efforts. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has contributed more than $25 million to the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation. The Truth Initiative reports net assets of more than $900 million. There's big money in being anti-nicotine.

None of this is to say that secondhand smoke or e-cigarette vapor are completely risk-free or that we are obligated to take a laissez-faire approach to either. One can advocate for reasonable restrictions on smoking that fall short of the bans in parks, beaches, and other outdoor areas that anti-smoking groups favor today; one can support reasonable regulations on e-cigarettes without banning them entirely and threatening to imprison people who sell them. But getting this balance right requires confronting the financial and ideological conflicts on both sides of the issues—and interrogating the fundamental illiberalism of the anti-smoking movement.

Journalists' failure to do so during debates over secondhand smoke got smokers banished to the fringes of social spaces. By repeating this failure in the debate over lower-risk competitors to the cigarette, journalists may get those smokers killed.

NEXT: Let the Kurds Come to America

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  1. Funny that all the antismoking crusaders are all bought an paid for by big tobacco by law and vaping just happens to be tobacco’s biggest competitor from a product standpoint at this time. I’m sure there’s nothing to see there.

    1. Vaping is not tobacco’s biggest competitor. Every major cigarette maker also makes and sell vaping products. It is only an extension of their product. The villainization comes from Big Pharma who stands to lose a lot of money on Chantix and other “anti-smoking” products that do not actually work, but they make tons of money from.

      1. ^This^ x 10000. Big Pharma also donates billions to various health charities, including J&Js own Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. And currently, Pharma is also having its own image problem with opioids, so what better way to divert attention than to create a fake vaping “crisis”. I’ve noticed that they have shifted their focus though from tobacco to nicotine bc vapes don’t actually contain tobacco. Pharma also sells nicotine gum and patches, and probably doesn’t like the competition. So look for nicotine to become a controlled substance in the not too distant future, available by prescription only for a while, then completely illegal.

      2. You might consider that ‘Big Pharma’ also sells many products that are inhaled – vaped. Do you really think they want to endanger that multi billion $$ business? They are also planning and testing the vapor delivery system for other products.

        If anything Big Pharma might have been considering purchasing Juul or some other outfit, but are probably scared off by the fake scandal.

        This entire mess is due to the scandal-mongering of the press who NEVER tell us who made the products in question (because they are not legit products). It’s always bootleg. It’s as if the booze industry were being shut down because someone got blinded by white lightning. Sheesh.

    2. Disagree.

      This crusade is self-started by government.

      Their flow of tax cash from the MSA is drying up due in large part to vaping and making the bonds cities and states sold lose value very quickly.

      Governments all over want their cash and aren’t afraid of forcing millions of adults who had the nerve to quit smoking and turn off the tax spigot to go right back to it.

      They’re fucking evil. To the government, all I am is a tax cow, and if it means me dying prematurely for them to keep milking the udders, so be it.

      1. The Truth Project is a Billion Dollar trust that won its war. Like MADD in the 80s, that money needs to be spent on something. Just as MADD went from raising the drinking limit to advocating for checkpoints and alcohol blood levels so low as to be meaningless, the Truth project (and the anti-smoking industry in general) needs to spend its money on something.

        Think about that. As we got out of the early 2000s, there were hundreds of millions of dollars being spent annually to fund studies, create advertisements and power lawsuits. That entire industry was designed to demonize nicotine and extract money and freedom from its trade. Do we really think those labs, law firms, endowments etc are just going to pop champaign and go find something else to do with their lives?

  2. “Though Tlaib is mistaken about the science”
    Though Tlaib lies about the science – – – –

    OMG!! A democrat is lying for political gain!
    This is unprecedented!

  3. It has always amazed me how any person can be considered credible will decrying the dangers of second-hand smoke. I do understand that second-hand smoke is not good in any way. But the fact that the smoker not only inhales directly, they also inhale more second-hand smoke than any person anywhere near them. The cigarette is always in closer proximity to the smoker than the non-smoker. Smokers inhale more second-hand smoke than any other person. So, using myself as an example, I am a 50 year old smoker who has smoked for 37 years continually, usually about 2 packs per day. But yet, here I am. I’m not dead. I have no real illness’. I would not call, myself “healthy”, but I am also no where near death.

    1. For a long time, I told people who were paranoid about second hand smoke if they also avoid BBQs, campfires, and standing anywhere near an idling car, or especially truck. They would always be like “well scientists say it’s more dangerous!”. To which I would reply: “stand in a closed garage with somebody who is smoking for 30 minutes, or a car running for 30 minutes”, the. You can tell me which is more dangerous.

      1. On any other subject matter studied by epidemiological studies, leaders in the field agree that relative risks of 3 or higher are needed to distinguish noise from a possible correlation – not causation, but correlation as these studies do not and cannot prove cause and effect. Very high relative risks, much higher than 3, say 10 or greater, then very much suggest a cause and effect but again do not prove.

        Decades of epidemiological study of second hand smoke, where the studies are shown to be statistically significant by a confidence interval of 95% (standard), has never yielded relative risks of even 2.0

        I always loved asking an anti-smoking advocate,” If you believe that I am wrong in saying that no study to date has proven that second hand smoke is dangerous, then explain why beginning with the sentence, “Relative risks below 3.0 are significant only for ETS studies, but not significant for all other epidemiological studies, because…”

  4. “Anti-smoking advocacy groups have a long history of exploiting shoddy science for political gain.”

    Scratch a watermelon and …..

  5. Can you clarify “of the 480,000 deaths attributable to smoking in the United States each year, less than a tenth 10th are caused by exposure to secondhand smoke”. Specifically, “less than a tenth 10th”.

    1. Better yet, specify how the figure of 480,000 was arrived at. Because, as a longtime cynic and observer of the anti-smoking Crusade’s descent into idiocy, I’m willing too be that out is another example of ‘decide what conditions are caused by smoking, then attribute tall instances of death caused by those conditions to smoking’; i.e. if an eighty year old nonsmoking nun, who spent the last fifty years of her life in a smoke-free nunnery, dies of emphysema, then smoking killed her.

      The original surgeon general’s report was probably generally sound, but as the ’70’s drew to a close, the science simply wasn’t getting more specific, and the percentage of people smoking leveled off after a quick drop, and the Anti-Smokers abandoned reality, and started becoming like the Anti-Saloon League of the Prohibition era.

      The ‘evidence’ against secondhand smoke is garbage. The hysteria about people who continue to smoke smacks of fascism.

      I particularly object to the phrase “the worthy end of achieving a healthier society.”; the people who have that goal are far too goddamned fond of pushing their fellow around ‘for their own good’. Such people are not worthy, except of a quick trip to the guillotine.

      1. Pretty sure if you get run over by a truck when you’re smoking, the death is ‘smoking related’.
        No, I don’t smoke.

        1. Agreed. I’m sure that there are radon abatement workers who had to pick up their paychecks in the office of a smoker had their lung cancer deaths attributed to secondhand smoke.

    2. Back in the day, I was led to believe that they arrived at the Second Hand Smoke deaths through a complicated process that boiled down to:
      If 30 cigarettes a day kills one million people per year, then .3 cigarettes a day in second hand smoke must kill 1/100th that amount. (Or something similar.)

      I remember this specifically because I thought to myself, based on this logic I wonder how many drowning deaths per year could be extrapolated to being caused by steam rooms.

  6. On Wednesday, some metro Detroit police began visiting businesses, such as Manjo’s, to educate them about the ban.

    “Nice shop you have here. Be a shame if we was forced to kidnap you and hold you against your will for selling stuff that people want to buy in it.”

    Are we supposed to pretend that there are any differences between law enforcement and organized crime anymore?

  7. It appears that when a group is promoting something that is well intended, be it about the dangers of smoking or the incidence of human/ sex trafficking, it is just fine to exaggerate a little, or maybe even a lot, if the intentions are good. So you pull numbers out of your ass, make up stats, and then even double or triple them, because smoking is bad, guns are just plain dangerous, and no little girl wants to grow up to be a prostitute.

    And anyone who questions them is anti science and apparently hates children.

    1. Don’t forget plastic straws. Because those stats came directly from children, so your hatred of them is evident.

  8. Oh, I don’t think it’s the anti-smoking people. Vaping helps reduce smoking. It’s the control-everything people, in league with the smoking industry and the government types who like that sweet tobacco tax revenue.

    1. No, it’s the anti-smoking people. Vaping looks like smoking, and they HATE smoking with the white-hot passion of a thousand suns. Ergo, vaping has to go.

  9. Scientifically speaking, that assertion is as embarrassingly uninformed as anything one might hear from a Republican congressman in a hearing about climate change.

    Except for this nonsense that undercuts Jacob’s entire argument, this was a pretty good article. He obviously has drunk the koolaid bigtime and never looked into the cult of anthropogenic global warming more closely, or is incapable thereof.

    Anti-global warming advocacy groups have a long history of exploiting shoddy science for political gain.

    FIFY

  10. Isn’t every sensible person anti-smoking?

    Who is pro-smoking? Even people who work for Big Tobacco don’t want their kids to smoke.

    1. Personally anti-smoking? Maybe.. Anti-Smoking against others dictatively; ONLY the prickish “dic”tators who think the world revolves around them and their every whim.

      I’ll bet the majority would choose that their kids smoke tobacco than to choose them to smoke weed – so where’s all the “dic”tators against weed? Anti-smoking socially is the VERY definition of being fascist.

    2. Lets get our definitions right –
      Non-smoking: Doesn’t smoke, maybe doesn’t like to be around it, maybe doesn’t care. Maybe concerned with your choice to smoke, certainly wouldn’t let their kids smoke until at least they were adults and could make the choice. Might suggest you quit, but wouldn’t dream of telling you how to live your life, let alone disrespect you about it.
      Anti-smoking: Hates smoking so much that they feel it should be banned, taxed up the wazoo and ultimately illegal. Are angry if someone, somewhere is enjoying a smoke, even if they would never find themselves around it. Even if all those around the smoking are okay with it. Fully supports the campaign to denormalize, marginalize and ostracize smokers. And/Or makes a living doing all of the above.

      As for vaping, in the words of a New York politician who pushed NYC’s ban on vaping in bars and restaurants many years ago, “It looks like smoking”

      I applaud the few activists who are actually serious about health in that they’ve embraced vaping as a safer alternative to smoking, but most of the anti-smoking crusade are squarely against vaping, because – and I feel this is the gut reason – knowing that ex-smokers are back in bars and restaurants with a social life doing something that looks like smoking but isn’t and enjoying themselves burns their asses.

      1. As for vaping, in the words of a New York politician who pushed NYC’s ban on vaping in bars and restaurants many years ago, “It looks like smoking”

        Bingo! Unfortunately, Mr. Grier has also fallen for the false narrative set up by the anti-smokers when he writes, “Today’s moral panic about vaping has its roots in the decades-long campaign to delegitimize the use of nicotine in pursuit of total bans on public smoking.”

        The anti-smokers, having no other way to tie conventional smoking and e-cigs together except for its shared nicotine, have then glommed on to that as their life preserver to make their case…. AFTER having first asserted that “IT LOOKS LIKE SMOKING.” That is what this is about, not nicotine! In all the years the anti-smokers went after smoking they never once used nicotine as point of harm — conceding that they have never found it to be harmful. Rather, they used it as their reason to interfere with autonomous choice because “they are addicted and we must save them.”

        The fatal mistake the vaping advocates are making is falling right in to line with the false narrative. The antis called “nicotine!” and the other side said “yes sir!” — responding to the argument the antis set up — instead of calling them out on the false narrative, telling them they’ve got nothing on nicotine and calling them out on what they really have against e-cigs: “It looks like smoking. It will normalize smoking after we tried so hard to denormalize it. ”

        Think about it. The anti-smokers never claimed a health issue with nicotine when going after conventional cigarettes. At best the claim was that is what kept someone using what is alleged to be harmful IN EVERY OTHER WAY. It was the “every other way” that was their issue with cigarettes. The antis didn’t want people SMOKING and NOT that they didn’t want people using nicotine. So why on earth do the vaping advocates really think they’re fighting a war on nicotine grounds?!? Because that’s what the other side says (as they’ve determined is their best, but false, chance to win hearts and minds) the game is?? People, it so clearly isn’t “to delegitimize nicotine use” as Grier repeats every other vaping advocate. The war on vaping now is to delegitimize SMOKING conventional cigarettes. Maybe when you take command of the argument instead of letting the other side set the rules you might have a chance. Until then, you’re just helping your foes win the game under the rules only they have control over.

        1. Hi Audrey! It’s true that the antis did not initially have a problem with nicotine because their Pharma benefactors were hawking NRT products in hope that smokers pushed or shamed into quitting by bans and taxes would have no choice but to switch to them. Vaping completely undermines this, so the antis have gone apeshit. There are some like Benowitz, Wynykoff, and Glantz trying to make nicotine into a major addiction crisis, but will never admit that they are the ones responsible for driving people to it in the first place.

  11. Inside the time capsule — 1980; The EPA couldn’t meet the generally accepted scientific standard of “statistical significance” on epidemiological studies relating smoking and lung cancer so they cherry-picked the numbers (threw out half the studies) and when even the cherry-picked numbers couldn’t meet “statistically significant” they decided to just change the standards completely!

    Seriously — Even the whole direct smoking will kill you has been a fabrication from day one. Statistical significant standards were created to try and eliminate coincidental statistics and many times even the standard created did a piss poor job at creating predictability and repeatability. If you can’t even get statistical significant — your just making stuff up.

  12. The “War on ____” mentality has become an all-purpose response to any aspect of life that the media can sensationalise.

  13. Yepppp…, now this isss truly allll about the benjamins!!!! Morans like these just want to replace tobacco with pot as a cash crop!!!

  14. None of this is to say that secondhand smoke or e-cigarette vapor are completely risk-free or that we are obligated to take a laissez-faire approach to either.

    No, why would a libertarians magazine advocate a laissez-faire approach to private consensual behavior? That would be madness!

  15. so good news, i like this reason

  16. Can’t we improve education and critical thinking skills, and stop allowing fools to elect fools? This type of thing is getting pathetic.

    1. Follow the money-there are always well-heeled special interests behind any “War on —-“. For smoking and vaping, it generally is Big Pharma. The War in Drugs (esp pot) has been pushed by Big Booze, then the prison industry and unions, The nuclear industry funded Hansen’s early studies on climate change

      1. “The nuclear industry funded Hansen’s early studies on climate change.”

        Yup, how’d that work out for them. Always be careful about with whom you get into the metaphorical bed.

    2. “Can’t we improve education” — Not until each person of “we” can free-willingly (without being charged for socialized “foolish” education) seek and find the best education which won’t be standardized by the “fools” to begin with.

      1. Plus a little expansion on that thought –
        A) Hire a group of U.S. B.O.A. Ph.D. Liberal Arts and Female Studies Graduates to build a rocket.
        B) Hire a group Certified Professionals by the current Rocket-Propulsion industry to build a rocket.

        Problem is; Option a B is almost obsolete and option A has been parroted (cheerleaded) into general acceptance even though it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know which one has a better education for the job.

        1. And… If you don’t think ALL U.S. B.O.A Ph.D majors are mostly Liberal Arts Majors — I dare you to review the “standardized” academic curriculum of any major you choose and add up total credits versus credits actually part of that major… They are ALL 60%+ OTHER (Liberal Arts) subjects.

          1. Excuse me – B.O.E. Board of Education

  17. Folks are concerned about 29 vaping related deaths over some period of time. Daily, we have 28 alcohol-related deaths on US highways. Each and every day. Seems folks have forgotten about triage.

    1. Excellent point. My gut tells me that vaping may pose some danger. I have no idea how much danger or what the statistical risk is. If it’s a 1 in a million risk, it’s well worth using to get away from tobacco. If it’s 1 in 2, that’s something to consider. The point is, we don’t know, so listening to anecdotal “evidence” is useless.

  18. Anti-smoking are tools. Anti-vaping is driven by Juul, a vaping company owned by a tobacco company, designed to pull massive regulation down on itself and the rest of the vaping industry.

    These “truth” ads state things like, “Fact! Nobody knows what vaping does. Do you?”

    Translation: “Fact! FUD!”

    “No, they can’t be tools of tobacco and…oh…North Carolina is the first state to sue Juul.”

    1. Interesting that NC is home to RJ Reynolds (now owned by BAT) and maker of Vuse – the #2 selling vape device (and a distant second to Juul). Again, follow the $

  19. I don’t think there’s any doubt that vaping poses some danger. How much danger and what the likelihood of experiencing it is, at this point, an unknown. It should be studied scientifically, ignoring the anecdotal hysteria, so people can decide for themselves what they want to do. My gut tells me that it can post health risk, but less than tobacco. But that’s my gut, that’s not science.

    1. I don’t think there’s any doubt that ______ poses some danger. — Flying, Driving, Walking, Running, Spitting, Working, Parachuting, Building, Electricity, Lightening, Rain, Sun, Sand, Dirt and well actually ANYTHING..

      Look at that fool Benjamin Franklin standing out there in a lighting storm flying a kite with a key attached! How dangerous. How idiotic. Who would do such a thing!

      Maybe society is just a lot better off if each and everyone of us decides for ourselves whether the risk outweighs the reward.

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