The Terrifying Faces of Alcohol Inhalation

It is "worse than butt-chugging."



In a 2006 video demonstrating AWOL (Alcohol Without Liquid), a machine that mixes ethanol with oxygen and delivers the resulting mist through a tube, a British guy sucking on "The Ultimate Party Tool" exclaims, "In 10 years' time, I can see everybody doing this." Although AWOL still has another year to catch on, by now it is fair to say that prediction was overly optimistic. Back then, however, the prospect that inhalation would replace drinking as Americans' favorite way of consuming alcohol terrified legislators so much that they pre-emptively banned AWOL-like devices in at least 22 states. In a story posted today, the Asbury Park Press tries to revive the alcohol inhalation panic by pointing with alarm at the Vaportini, a low-tech but more elegant and much cheaper alternative to AWOL that has been on the market for a few years, and this dude, who demonstrates on YouTube how to get drunk by sucking vapor from a soda bottle containing alcoholic beverages pressurized with a bicycle pump.


The headline on the story: "Smoking Alcohol: The Next Jersey Shore Killer?" At least they used a question mark.

"'Smoking alcohol' has emerged as a trend in some places over the past two years," the paper reports. "With it has come a hailstorm of scrutiny from the medical profession." Seeding the clouds for that storm, reporter Jerry Carino asks Jeremy Dayner, chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold, to express concern about this putative trend. Dayner obliges. "If used correctly, [the Vaportini] would be no more dangerous than drinking alcohol," he says. "The problem is people not using it correctly." Isn't that the problem with pretty much everything?

Dayner worries that people using the Vaportini, which consists of a glass globe suspended on a metal ring over a pint glass containing a tea light, may be more prone to lose track of how much they've consumed and therefore more likely to over-imbibe. The company that sells the Vaportini argues that, to the contrary, the quick onset of psychoactive effects when alcohol is inhaled means people can more easily stop when they achieve the desired level of intoxication. It says inhaling the alcohol in an ounce of liquor takes 20 to 40 minutes, "depending on how aggressively a Vaportini is consumed."

Dayner also worries that if people consume too much alcohol through inhalation, they will absorb it all rather than vomiting some of it back up, which raises the risk of dying from acute poisoning. Yet Carino reports that "spokespersons for CentraState and Monmouth Medical Center said they have not seen any cases related to vaportinis, AWOL or the smoking of alcohol." Judging from a Nexis search covering the period since AWOL became available in the United States, deaths from alcohol inhalation are rare, if not nonexistent. "It hasn't been a big issue here," Dayner concedes, "but it could very easily be a type of thing where young people have a problem with it."

And did you know that "smoking alcohol is worse than butt-chugging"? I guess that depends on what you mean by "worse." Although it has not exactly taken the country by storm, alcohol inhalation is clearly more popular than butt-chugging or vodka-soaked tampons, possibly because it does not involve absorbing alcohol through entirely new orifices.

The Vaportini does not seem to be covered by those state laws banning AWOL. Under California's law, which seems to be typical, an "alcohol vaporizing device" is defined as "any device, machine, or process that mixes spirits, liquor, or other alcohol product with pure oxygen or other gas to produce a vaporized product for the purpose of consumption by inhalation." Since the Vaportini merely heats liquor, releasing a vapor than can be inhaled through a straw, it does not fit that definition. Will legislators close this alarming loophole before it's too late?

[Thanks to Felix for the Asbury Park Press link.]

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  1. Bah. I don’t care about vaporized booze. What I do care about is the ass hats who are trying to ban powdered alcohol.

    I want to be able to pack in powdered alcohol into the BWCA instead of having to bring in a bottle of Bacardi 151.

    But no, can’t have that because of teh Kidz!!!…..cohol-ban/

    “I think being proactive and jumping out in front of the problem is probably the right thing to do,” said Chris Johnson, executive director of the County Sheriffs of Colorado. “It really doesn’t have any place in our society, powered alcohol. We have enough problems with the liquid kind.”

    Johnson said he fears powdered alcohol will make it easier for children to “sprinkle it on top of their Wheaties for breakfast” and increase the potential for alcohol poisoning.

    “It can be a very dangerous thing,” he said.

    1. Agreed. I read the article and prepared to post something similar related to powdered alcohol, which has real industrial and consumer benefits.

      1. I’m trying to get my powdered water business off the ground. Hopefully the blowback from this doesn’t derail my efforts.

        1. Anhydrous water – now THAT’S innovation!

        2. Won’t Beano help with the blowback?

      2. I had blow back when I used spot remover on my dog and he disappeared.

    2. I want to be able to pack in powdered alcohol into the BWCA instead of having to bring in a bottle of Bacardi 151.

      I’m certainly not in favor of the ban. And the reasoning for it is completely stupid. But why would you want to do that? Powdered alcohol can’t weigh any less than liquid (it must, in fact, weigh more than grain alcohol, anyway). Just put your 151 in a plastic bottle. And I can only imagine that the products must be awful sweet crap.

    3. Powdered alcohol? What exactly is the benefit to having it other than being slightly easier to carry around (in some ways) than liquid?

      1. Back before mmunicipal water systems, adding wine to untreated water made it relatively safe to drink.

  2. Alt Text winner of 2015? Need they try anymore?

    Well done, sir. Well done!

    1. Yeah, he is making up for other’s lack of it!

  3. Ethanol vapor and oxygen?

    Sounds explosive. This problem will solve itself.

    1. Pressurized ethanol vapor and oxygen.

      Not that I think a complex method of consuming smaller amounts of alcohol in a ‘more direct’, but by no means faster, manner will ever catch on.

      1. Yeah, I think drinking works just fine for most people.

  4. Parks and Rec did it.

    1. May I chisel your aromasphere?

      1. This is the wrong way to consume alcohol.

  5. Back then, however, the prospect that inhalation would replace drinking as Americans’ favorite way of consuming alcohol terrified legislators distributors so much that…


  6. H. L. Mencken would be interested:

    “…I marvel that no utopian has ever proposed to abolish all the sorrows of the world by the simple device of getting and keeping the whole human race gently stewed…

    “I am well aware, of course, that getting the whole human race stewed and keeping it stewed, year in and year out, would present formidable technical difficulties. It would be hard to make the daily dose of each individual conform exactly to his private needs, and hard to get it to him at precisely the right time. On the one hand there would be the constant danger that large minorities might occasionally become cold sober, and so start wars, theological disputes, moral reforms, and other such unpleasantnesses. On the other hand, there would be danger that other minorities might proceed to actual intoxication, and so annoy us all with their fatuous bawling or maudlin tears. But such technical obstacles, of course, are by no means insurmountable. Perhaps they might be got around by abandoning the administration of alcohol per ora and distributing it instead by impregnating the air with it.”

    1. “…getting and keeping the whole human race gently stewed…”

      Well, they can’t say straight out that’s what they’re doing, but psychiatric drugs are prescribed at the drop of a hat. Medicating the population into apathetic acceptance is a thing.

      Brave New World was an instruction manual, apparently.

      1. You have to opt in to psychiatric drugs, and for many people they’re helpful. My problem is that you can only get them from licensed dealers, which is true for any other useful drug (like alcohol and now pot).

        It’s the ones that you have to opt out of (or worse, can’t opt out of) that get my attention. I can see why old libertarians (and plenty of other non-majority groups) were freaked out by the fluoridation movement for reasons other than fearing an increase in bone cancer.

        And Percy’s Thanatos Syndrome covers the topic of secretive mass medication as well as any novel I’ve read.

  7. Got one of these for X-mas from asshole relative. Lame. Don’t understand all the hubbub. Better, more traditional ways to consume booze.

  8. I read about this, and tried it with Everclear and a bike pump in a 2 liter bottle. Inhaled tons of vapor, and never got so much as a buzz. It’s bullshit.

    1. Ah ha! I knew it.

  9. Just fill your bong with tequila like a normal person.

    1. That never worked for me (everclear). The pot seemed weaker and the smoke tasted terrible. I suspect I was losing the thc to alcohol. This was confirmed by drinking it. Which went down smoother than the smoke.

  10. Butt chugging! Woo!

    1. If you’re arrested for driving under the influence after butt chugging, do you have to fart into the breathalayzer?

      1. If so, may I go ahead of you at the DUI checkpoint?

  11. It’s been a couple of years since the last good old fashioned over inflated moral panic. We were due for another one.

  12. Thankfully do-gooders have alcohol or they’d be left with no choice except to make something else the worst of all evils.

  13. The proper answer to these drug panics is the creative use of tranquilizer darts.

    Starting with politicians.

  14. The people that exhibit these bizarre behaviors are all auditioning for the Darwin Award. We should allow Darwinian selection to proceed, unmolested, as long as they only eliminate themselves from the gene pool.

  15. This is major league stupid. So stupid that it deserves a Congressional investigation, a FDA study, a CPSC study, and a CDC study. While we’re at it, let’s ban brandy snifters as drug paraphernalia.

    1. Seriously. We haven’t spent nearly enough taxpayer money trying to figure out if this is a gigantic menacing threat to children and puppies. How can we possibly allow its use until we’ve spent that money?

  16. Vomiting alcohol isn’t necessarily safer than absorbing it. Depends how much is yet to be absorbed, of course, but vomiting in an already stuporous condition can cause choking.

    1. Jimi Hendrix and John Bonham endorse your observations!

  17. The vaporizer folks would like to “debate” Sullum for “dishonest reporting”. Methinks their sarcasometer is broken?

    1. Methinks gullible people in charge of distributing alcohol is an opportunity.

  18. Ther eis a guy that knows what time it is.

  19. Cinnamon Schnapps challenge

  20. Presently just relaxing after work and butt chugging an Anchor Steam or three.

  21. Entirely new orifices?! I’ve had this one asshole my whole life; should I be expecting a second one to sprout soon?

  22. I’ll just continue to use cut crystal snifters warmed in the palm of my hand .

  23. my roomate’s aunt makes $68 every hour on the computer . She has been fired from work for six months but last month her check was $20790 just working on the computer for a few hours.??????

  24. What’s next? Are they going to ban kitten huffing?

    1. I dehydrate the kittens in a kiln and then sell their essence on the World Wide Web!

    2. Does it work with jenkum?

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  27. Well, duh! The answer is so simple. Outlaw alcohol. Only this time, like with the so-called war on drugs, we need to keep throwing money at it until we have won…like the so-called war on drugs.

    1. Let’s skip ahead to the obvious source of the problem here. The problem isn’t alchohol, it’s people. People are too smart for their own good and keep inventing ways to make themselves feel dumb for a few hours. If we just kill everyone, there would be no more problems! Utopia at last!

  28. Can someone explain this to me? I was high on jenkum when I read it.

  29. Maybe I’ve been a snob so long that I’ve forgotten what it’s like not to be a snob, but why would I want to vaporize alcohol that I could taste? If I can afford a vaporizer for my booze, presumably I can afford a decent bottom-shelf bourbon instead.

    Oh, now I get it: it’s trendy.

  30. The pure taste of the liquor you get is unmatched. It’s recommended to use above 80 proof, but I say stick to 90 proof or higher. Of course there are no issues doing this, unless it is abused.

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