Better Than Synthahol?


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.]