Alcohol inhalers, which have been banned in 22 states since they were introduced to American consumers in 2004, will soon be illegal in North Carolina, home of Spirit Partners, the U.S. distributor of AWOL (Alcohol Without Liquid) machines. The Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina (whose slogan, I shit you not, is "Somebody Really Should Do Something"), brags that he convinced the state legislature to ban the machines after he heard about them at an alcohol abuse conference last fall:
Imagine what would happen if users could fast track the mind-altering effects of alcohol and, at the same time, sidestep the hangover. That's exactly the appeal of AWOL. It is not complimentary of the great State of North Carolina that this new scourge for alcohol abuse is being marketed from within our own borders.
As I noted when I wrote about the anti-AWOL movement two years ago, health officials in the U.K., where the device was invented, do not seem to think alcohol inhalation poses special hazards that distinguish it from drinking. Indeed, the main knock against AWOL in the U.S. is the absence of a hazard (hangover) usually associated with alcohol consumption, an apparent advantage that, to the horror of moralists like the Rev. Creech, divorces sin from punishment.
According to the Christian Action League, the North Carolina bill, which was unanimously approved by the state Senate in April and unanimously approved by the state House yesterday, "makes it unlawful to inhale fumes for the purpose of intoxication, or to manufacture, sell, give, deliver, possess or use an alcohol vaporizing device. It also makes it illegal to possess or sell ethyl alcohol for the purpose of inhaling." So if you pick up a bottle of vodka in North Carolina and announce, "I think I'd like to inhale some of this," you have transformed an otherwise legal beverage into contraband.