Bad Buzz

Blocking alcohol inhalers.

The European fad of inhaling liquor vapor through a contraption known as AWOL (for Alcohol Without Liquid) hasn't exactly taken the U.S. by storm. But AWOL's absence has not stopped legislators from trying to ban it.

"It's not something I wanted to see proliferate throughout the state," a co-sponsor of Florida's proposed ban told The Miami Herald in late April. "We're getting ahead of the curve here." Not as far ahead as Kansas and Colorado legislators, who voted to prohibit the alcohol vaporizers while their Florida counterparts were still dithering. At least a dozen states are mulling AWOL bans, so if you're waiting to inhale, it may be a long wait.

One of AWOL's main selling points is freedom from hangovers--which its detractors consider an invitation to excess. In its defense, AWOL USA, the machine's American distributor, quotes a British Health Department official's conclusion that using the vaporizer is no more dangerous than "consuming an equivalent amount of alcohol in an equivalent time period in a more traditional way."

Distillers, who may be uncomfortable with seeing their products consumed in a manner reminiscent of marijuana and opium, are among the most vocal opponents of AWOL, which could work against their efforts to project a responsible image and to market brands based on taste. Peter Cressy, president of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, told the Herald that AWOL's marketing "would strongly suggest that the purpose of this device is to get a buzz. We don't think getting a buzz is a good idea."�

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