Better Than Synthahol?

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In a 1998 interview with ABC's John Stossel, Thomas Constantine, then head of the DEA, explained that illegal drugs are different from alcohol because people use them "for a single purpose…the purpose of becoming high," which is "wrong" and "dangerous." Stossel confessed that "when I have a glass of gin or vodka, I'm doing it to get a little buzz on. That buzz is bad?"

Of course that buzz is bad, and no one knows it better than the liquor industry, as illustrated by its response to a nifty new device known as AWOL (for "Alcohol Without Liquid") that allows you to inhale your gin or vodka instead of drinking it. This low-calorie, (reportedly) hangover-free alternative to conventional booze consumption has not attracted much of a following in the U.S. yet. But it has provoked concern from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), which is pushing legislation in Florida and elsewhere to ban it.

AWOL's divorce of alcohol from drinking "would strongly suggest that the purpose of this device is to get a buzz," says DISCUS President Peter Cressy with horror. "We don't think getting a buzz is a good idea….It gave us grave concern that it was marketed as the 'ultimate party tool' and reducing hangovers….Our trade association has long been a leader in fighting abuse of our products."

In its defense, AWOL USA says its vaporizer "has a built-in safety device because it takes about 20 minutes to inhale one vaporizer shot of alcohol (about 1/2 actual shot size)." The company also quotes a British Health Department official's statement that "we are not aware of any current evidence to suggest that use of the AWOL machine in accordance with the advice and instructions poses particular risks to the user over and above the risks that may be posed by consuming an equivalent amount of alcohol in an equivalent time period in a more traditional way."

I suspect the distillers' purported safety concerns are a cover for their discomfort in seeing their products consumed in a manner reminiscent of marijuana and opium. By bringing to the fore liquor's psychoactive properties, AWOL might even cause people to question Thomas Constantine's explanation for why alcohol is morally superior to illegal intoxicants.

[Thanks to Fyodor for the tip.]

NEXT: Mayday, Mayday!

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  1. If it really “takes about 20 minutes to inhale one vaporizer shot of alcohol” — why bother?

  2. Here’s the key question:
    What’s the dollar per buzz ratio compared to, say MD 20-20?
    Or is this whole set-up from Onion?

  3. I’ll pass that thanks on to my friend, Ms. Terious…

  4. Well, if people are only drinking alcohol to get high, then there’s only one thing to do: Pass a law to ban it.

    I’m sure that will fix the problem without any unintended consequences.

    I’m surprised that nobody has tried this before!

  5. ….It gave us grave concern that it was marketed as the ‘ultimate party tool’ and reducing hangovers….

    If there is no hangover, then there must be no alcohol abuse, right? I mean, after all, a hangover is the illness brought on by the over consumption of alcohol, which defines MADD’s term of Alcohol Binging.

  6. I wonder how the owners of new “smoke-free” bars feel about this. Isn’t it hypocritical to ban one type of “dangerous” substance while freely selling another in potentially damaging quantities?

    And as for their arguments about the detrimental effects of second-hand smoke, ask them about abused families, diminished next-day work performance and drunk-driving fatalities to which their own product has contributed greatly. Clearly one does not have to consume alcohol to be negatively affected by it, either.

  7. I would like Thomas Constantine to give me the name of just ONE person who has consumed Milwaukee’s Best beer for the taste.

  8. A few friends in the UK have told me that these things are worthless and that the popularity is dying quickly. It’s more expensive, it takes 20 minutes of being strapped to the vaporizer, and it doesn’t affect a person all that much.

  9. Of course distillers are going to oppose this. If you inhale your vodka, taste is less of a factor. All of the sudden, sales of Grey Goose will plummet and sales of Popov vodka, in the handy plastic bottle, will skyrocket. They?re trying to hold onto their high margin products. Between the AWOL and Brita filters, they stand to lose quite a bit of dough.

  10. “Hangin around, nothing to do
    Only got 5 bucks and you wanna get some brew.
    Gotta get a cheap beer, put it to the test
    the best fucking cheap beer, is Milwaukee’s Best!”
    – Functional Idiots 1987

  11. I would like Thomas Constantine to give me the name of just ONE person who has consumed Milwaukee’s Best beer for the taste.

    That person would be me (Beast Light only), though I definitely had it in mind to get drunk as well. After drinking massive amounts for 4 years, it grows on you.

    Sweet sweet nectar of the gods……………

  12. Just like Candy…

    Anon

  13. I can only conclude that Great Ape is high. I’m jealous.

  14. I can only conclude that Great Ape is high

    No, it’s merely a variant of the Stockholm Syndrome. I once had an affection for Meister Brau* long after I could afford far superior beers. Mucvh like one would willing undergo withdrawal symptoms to give up heroin, I did the same with Meister Brau. I can throw one down without initiating my gag reflex to this very day.

    * Meister Brau has the distinction of being the beer of choice for Booger in the RotN belching contest.

  15. Mo,

    Now that’s product placement!

  16. I’ve actually tried one of these. I couldn’t stay with the damn thing long enough to actually get a buzz. You are getting so little booze per breath (and its in no way adjustable), it’s hard to imagine anyone becoming a fan of the device.

    I’m glad I tried it, but I’m glad I didn’t spend any of my own money on it.

  17. It’s funny…or sad, depending on how you look at it…that the American People are given so little credit with regards to their cognitive ability to smell a big steaming load of horseshit, especially when it’s dumped directly in front of their noses. Please, how can anyone with a brain bigger than a walnut possibly take this shit with a straight face? In the words of Roy D. Mercer, “Well, he’s a dumbass, but he ain’t that dumb…”

    This episode should be entered as a new example in Wikipedia under “Rent-Seeking”. Crooks. If you weren’t drinking alcohol to get your “buzz-on”, then what, perhaps, is the purpose of the psychoactive effects of alcohol? I know it’s been said before, but, please, I can say objectively, nobody in their right mind buys Aristocrat vodka because of the “pleasurable taste”.

    This is akin to automobile manufacturers asserting that people don’t buy their cars to DRIVE in, they buy them because they like how the interior feels, or how the car looks, or how shiny the wheels are. Yes, people consider these things when buyinig a car, just like people consider taste and smell when buying alcohol—but the fact of the matter is, the primary reason for alcohol consumption is to get buzzed. Otherwise, there’d be no reason to consume alcoholic beverages.

  18. Evan Williams says, “It’s funny…or sad, depending on how you look at it…that the American People are given so little credit with regards to their cognitive ability to smell a big steaming load of horseshit, especially when it’s dumped directly in front of their noses.”

    That’s because the American public is, in fact, dumber than a big steaming load of horseshit.

  19. “the American public is, in fact, dumber than a big steaming load of horseshit.”

    Well, if someone can sit there with a straight face and tell me that the purpose of alcohol is not to get buzzed, then, you are right, unfortunately.

  20. In the great State of Maine it is merely a misdemeanor to possess marijuana for your personal use and there is no quantity (that I know of) beyond which, legally, implies intent to distribute, which is a much more serious crime.

    As a result of circumstances I won’t go into, I happened to be in a Maine District Court. While observing the various cases that came before the judge there was one that stood out.

    A young man (I estimate mid to late 20’s) was called. As he stood before him the judge read the charges and then participated in this exchange:

    Judge: “Mr. Pelletier, at the time of your arrest for speeding and operating without a license you had five ounces of marijuana in your possession.”

    Mr. Pelletier: “That is correct judge.”

    Judge: “Mr. Pelletier what did you intend to do with all that marijuana?”

    Mr. Pelletier: “It was for my own personal use, sir.”

    Those of us in the gallery erupted in laughter.

    But that is similar to my defense if they outlaw drinking alcoholic beveages to get drunk:

    “Officer, I drink this beverage for the taste. The fact that it makes me a little drunk is just a happy coincidence.”

  21. Jennifer,

    My roommates and I once opened up a beer-tasting party with a double-blind taste test of Milwaukee’s Best and MGD. Results were a statistically insignificant 8-7 edge to the cheap-and-frequently-mocked over the hyped-with-bikini-clad-young-mammals. To my papillae, they’re the same product.

    However, if motivation is everything…

  22. Mr Constantine has obviously never smoked some of that sweet tasty bud.

  23. They do make beer and wine without the alochol. You usually find them on a single tiny shelf that seems to have been thrown in there on afterthought 😉

  24. This is about the third or fourth time I’ve read an article like this about this “invention”. People really seem to think this is real! This is stupid. Think about it: alcohol vapor and pure oxygen… safe… Makes me crave a cigarette. (Bang!)

  25. I hope the Distilled Spirits Council isn’t trying to outlaw my preferred method of responsibly enjoying adult beverages — (1) Soak tampon in Aristocrat Vodka (2) Thrust tampon up ass, allowing time for vodka to soak into capillaries (3) Stumble around manufactured home in a state of euphoria

    Fyodor should also know that our great state of Colorado banned the AWOL device this legislative session.

  26. When I was living in the dorms we used to do ‘Case Day’ about once a semester, usually when the weather was particularly nasty on a Saturday. The challenge was for each of us to drink the entire case within the 24 hrs. Let me assure you that we chose the Meister Brau because of our discerning palettes. The fact that it was only about $6 a case after we returned the bottles had nothing to do with it.

    As for 5oz of pot being for personal consumption, we could have probably managed that too, but not on case day.

  27. B.P.,

    I’m too busy kibbutzing on H&R to know what’s happening in the real world! Well, I’m sorry to hear that, and I told my friend who told me about the Florida story, too. But alas, from some of the indications on this thread, it’s probably all just an empty gesture anyway.

    BTW, do you have a name for your means of intoxication? How about a TUFA Soak? (I’m not saying what that stands for!!)

  28. Aaron,
    The Chow came in bottles where you lived? Great googly moogly! It was only in cans around my parts. Though one advantage of Meister Brau over other cheap beers was that unlike most shit beer, which attempted to have flavor (and usually ended up being shitty), Meister Brau knew exactly what it was and opted for no flavor. It was essentially water with alcohol. This made it far superior to other beverages in its price range like Beast or Old English. It truly was a master brew.

    Damn, this thread is making me pine for my old broke-ass college days.

  29. Ain’t no vaporizer gonna ever taste like that ‘Smoky Porter’ I get at a local store here, by the pint. Yummy stuff, by god.

  30. If it really “takes about 20 minutes to inhale one vaporizer shot of alcohol” — why bother?

    B/C a good single malt, aged to perfection scotch runs about $15 a shot! Not sure how it will work in vaporizer, but if I can enjoy my shot over a longer period of time, I might order one from time to time at the cigar bar!

    Well, if someone can sit there with a straight face and tell me that the purpose of alcohol is not to get buzzed, then, you are right, unfortunately.

    Evan, if you find that someone, please ask them what the point of a drinking age is then? If we can trust them to enjoy the taste of chocolate without over consuming and developing diabetes, then whats wrong with tasting a good malt brew?

    — (1) Soak tampon in Aristocrat Vodka (2) Thrust tampon up ass, allowing time for vodka to soak into capillaries..

    …And run like hell while your ass burns. Obviously, you haven’t gone to college at a party skool! You can test the experience by just rubbing a little tiger balm on the old sphincter. Enjoy!

  31. The Chow came in bottles where you lived? Great googly moogly! It was only in cans around my parts.

    Alas, the down side of the availability of such a quality beverage in the returnable bottle was they apparently didn’t wash the bottles very well. We always had to spend some of our valuable drinking time checking for the floaty content. Then again, maybe there was a floaty content to the canned stuff too and you just couldn’t see it…

  32. I doubt this device will come anywhere near the buzz to price ratio of Everclear. Plus Everclear already gives you fewer problems the next morning compared to things like whisky. Of course maybe that’s because you’re still drunk the next morning…

  33. wow, this actually lends some creedance to the claim that adding vodka to the hookah water gets you drunk. I always thought my housemates were imagining that.

  34. “Hangin around, nothing to do
    Only got 5 bucks and you wanna get some brew.
    Gotta get a cheap beer, put it to the test
    the best fucking cheap beer, is Milwaukee’s Best!”
    – Functional Idiots 1987″

    I was an Econ student back in the day, and one of my biggest challenges was deciding between a $5 case of Beast and a $4 case of Olympia.

  35. Everclear and Gatorade. Breakfast of champions. Goes down like honeydew vine water; I was God’s own drunk and a fearless man.

    citizengnat–I dunno. When I was in college, for a while we used vodka *as* bong water. It seemed like it gave us a great extra buzz at the time, but I think it was more a placebo effect in retrospect.

  36. one of my biggest challenges was deciding between a $5 case of Beast and a $4 case of Olympia.

    I’d have to go with the Olympia, if only to mourn the fall of a once-great brewing empire.

  37. Milwaukee’s Best is a Miller product, so it is no surprise that it resembles MGD.

    Then, again, so is Meister Br?u.

    When we wanted “good” cheap beer, we grabbed a case of Rhinelander .

    When we wanted even cheaper beer, like when there were bratwurst to be par-boiled before grilling, we got some Regal Br?u.

    The worst cheap beer I ever had was called “Milwaukee Beer”. After tasting that swill, I did a double-take and perused the label. It was made in New Jersey. Apparently, some clever marketer snapped up the trademark, which is why Schlitz made Old Milwaukee, and Miller makes the Beast. None of the big Milwaukee brewers could use merely the city’s name as a trademark.

    As for drinking being primarily for getting a buzz on, that is ahistorical. Brewing beer and making wine were, prior to modern sanitation, one of the few ways of making dodgy water potable. Adding a cup of wine to a cup of water was a typical way to imbibe in ancient times, the alcohol having a salutory effect on whatever little beasties lived in the water. Beer, aka “liquid bread”, not only was a dependable beverage, it had food value. This may not register in these days of 96 calorie, 0 carb light “beer”, but pop for a Trappist tripple bock to see what I mean. Chew it thoroughly. 🙂

    Now we have medical evidence that a serving or two of alcohol per day has health benefits to the heart and even the brain!

    Sl?inte agus saol fada!

    Kevin

  38. …but pop for a Trappist tripple bock to see what I mean. Chew it thoroughly. 🙂 – Me.

    That should have said “Trappist or triple bock”. Sorry!

    Kevin

  39. When I was in england, it was popular on my rugby team to snort a table spoon of 100 proof vodka through the nose. It goes straight to the brain, but I assure you there is no hangover limiting effect. Like the time delay of the AWOL machine, this technique was self limiting since your sinuses immediatly swell closed for about 90 minutes making it impossible to consume more than 2 shots this way in an hour and a half. Fortunatly, that seemed to be enough. It only got ugly when we ran out of vodka and switched to tequila.

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