In the Doghouse

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.

Colorado Lawmaker Proposes to Let Parents Expose their Kids to Alcohol

GregBrophyJanuary 16, 2013

As the ink dries on marijuana legalization in Colorado, State Senator Greg Brophy (R - Wray) launched into the new legislative session last week with a proposal to allow parents to purchase alcohol for their underage children anywhere where alcohol can legally be consumed. His reasoning? Brophy took his daughter out for her 20th birthday and was miffed that he couldn’t legally buy her a drink. On his Facebook wall, he ranted: "Why on earth would you want to deny responsible parents the chance to expose their own kids to the effects of this product while with their parents?"

Brophy's bill is misguided and dangerous. Brophy wants to give parents the chance to expose their kids to the effects of a product that is responsible for, among other effects, the deaths of more than 5,000 youth under the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) in the U.S. each year. Studies have repeatedly shown that alcohol can cause permanent impairment in brain development and functioning in youth younger than 21 years old. Consuming alcohol prior to age 21 greatly increases one's chance of developing alcohol dependency later in life.
Conversely, an MLDA of 21 results in fewer traffic fatalities and other deaths, injuries, and other alcohol-related harm among underage drinkers. Contrary to Brophy’s suggestion that kids should learn to drink with their parents before leaving home with “unfettered” access to alcohol, students attending colleges and universities where the MLDA is strongly enforced are less likely to drink excessively. The MLDA is one of the most well-researched areas of public health and alcohol policy, and the findings are consistent: the 21 drinking age saves lives and reduces alcohol-related harm.
Brophy's proposal also would allow for parents of underage military personnel to buy their children drinks after they return home from service. In other words, he'd like young servicemen and women who come home alive to access a product that is likely to hurt them. There are better ways to say thank you to young veterans for putting their lives on the line.

Councilmember Englander Ignores Requests to Discuss L.A. Alcohol Ad Ban

EnglanderDecember 14, 2012

It is regularly an uphill battle trying to reduce alcohol harm in our communities. If we want to make a difference, we have to be in it for the long run. For a year and a half, the Coalition to Ban Alcohol Ads on Public Property in Los Angeles has been organizing to pass a motion to ban alcohol ads on city-owned and controlled property. As research continues to find, youth exposure to alcohol advertising is strongly related to negative public health outcomes: youth start drinking earlier, consume more alcohol, and experience more alcohol-related harm.
Recently, the efforts of the coalition received validation from several nationally-respected research institutions. Along with Alcohol Justice, the UCLA Alcohol Research Center, the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, RAND Corporation, and the director and health officer for the County of Los Angeles submitted letters to Los Angeles City Councilmember Richard Alarcón, the legislative sponsor of the motion, outlining why advertising alcohol on city property is a bad idea. All of the letters supported an alcohol advertising ban on public property in L.A.
If there is community support for the campaign, and research demonstrates that alcohol ads on public property contribute to underage drinking, then what has blocked the motion from moving forward? Answer: City Councilmember and Public Safety Committee Chair Mitchell Englander.
Since the motion was introduced into the Public Safety Committee in August 2011, Coalition members have requested to meet with Councilmember Englander seven times. Hundreds of community members have signed petitions and sent letters to his office regarding the motion, yet he has not responded to the requests. Other Public Safety Committee members have been more receptive to meeting requests, but those committee members have expressed that only the chair of the committee can move the motion forward.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission has made public that the lobbying firm Englander, Knabe & Allen recently began representing JC Decaux North America, the only company with city contracts that allow alcohol advertising. The founding associate of the firm is a family member of Councilmember Englander. Coalition members have asked for an investigation to clarify if the relationship between Councilmember Englander and the lobbying firm Englander, Knabe & Allen constitutes a conflict of interest with regard to the motion.
At a press conference two weeks ago the Coalition took the opportunity to air questions about Councilmember Englander's potential conflict of interest, for failing to move the motion to ban alcohol ads on city owned and controlled property out of committee. When Coalition members also confronted Englander after that day's City Council meeting, he stated that he would not meet with the coalition because they made a potential conflict of interest public. Coalition members told Englander that he has ignored their requests for 16 months and counting, and that they weren't surprised at his pronouncement that he would not meet with them. Coalition members also made it clear that all they wanted was an investigation into a possible conflict of interest.
The concerns of the coalition are not without reason. As the Public Safety Committee Chair, Councilmember Englander can agendize a hearing or table a motion at will and stop it from being heard by the City Council. The French owned company JC Decaux advertises alcohol on city property to make profits and, as  a consequence, youth in the city are bombarded with ads promoting alcohol, while taxpayers pay for the resulting alcohol-related harm. If a member of Englander's family were to lose money as a result of the motion being passed (or even heard in committee), and in his position as committee chair Englander can ensure that the motion is not heard, that could be construed as a conflict of interest.
In this uphill battle, the Coalition to Ban Alcohol Ads on Public Property in Los Angeles is determined to fight the influence of special interest groups and see that public health and safety rule the day. What will Councilmember Englander do? Meet with Coalition members who have requested to speak with him? Agendize and allow a hearing for the motion to ban alcohol ads on city property? Or will he continue to deny meeting requests and committee chair responsibilities?