In the Doghouse

Vaportini: Drunk on Fumes?

January 29, 2013

It's like something out of a bad 70's sci-fi flick: a product called the "Vaportini," Chicago bar owner Julie Palmer's new brainchild, bypasses pouring and swallowing and lets people inhale alcohol vapors through a straw.
The device heats spirits into vapors for users to inhale, rather than drinking the alcohol out of a glass. The concept - not unlike smoking heroin or crack cocaine - allows would-be drinkers to consume alcohol while simply breathing. The implications are obviously stark. Alcoholic vapors filling the air make it much harder for drinkers to track how much they've ingested, and much harder to avoid second-hand smoke effects that could impair other individuals without their knowledge or consent.
The product's website claims that it makes it easier to "responsibly imbibe." The website also calls the ingestion process "simple, natural and enjoyable," and says "the effects are felt immediately because the alcohol is going directly through the bloodstream. Most people experience a relaxed and mellow feeling." The Federal Trade Commission should review the Vaportini marketing materials, including web content, to ensure they don't promote misleading or deceptive claims about the product's advantages and effects.
Ultimately, the product may be a big flop at the hands of drinkers who see no need for this gimmick. Other products that allowed people to inhale alcohol have come and gone, and many states have banned devices that vaporize alcohol. But just a few states have language that could include this type of product. Oklahoma and Missouri are two examples of states with laws that do not allow devices like the Vaportini. Lawmakers should propose language to address this problem in their home states immediately.
The list of ways that alcohol contributes to harm and costs for that harm is already long enough - Inhaling alcohol doesn't need to shoot to the top, or even make the list at all.