The ‘Vaportini’ is a controversial new device that promises a ‘revolutionary way of consuming alcohol’. People can to use it to speed up the effects of alcohol consumption, without the calories, carbs or impurities that usually come with drinking. The device heats up alcohol to 140 degrees F and allows users to breathe in the vapor through a straw. The crazy contraption can be purchased for just $45 from an American website.
Needless to say, inhaling alcohol is just as bad as it sounds. Professor Chris Day of Newcastle University and advisor to Drinkaware (a charity that promotes responsible drinking), said: “Inhaling alcohol is a very new trend so there isn’t yet any scientific data of the effects but it has the potential to be a very dangerous phenomenon and as such, we would advise people to be cautious if indeed they do decide to try it.” The professor also pointed out that the vapor bypasses the body’s natural defence mechanisms, so it has to be unsafe.
Professor Jonathan Chick, a psychiatrist from Edinburgh, was in agreement. “There is a greater ‘hit’ on the brain than when alcohol is taken by mouth, because some of it has not already been broken down on its way through the liver and this will increase the risk of damage to brain cells. So the method cannot be called safer to the body organs,” he said. He pointed out that there is an added risk of inhalation which is due to the direct impact on the brain – that is, risk of unsteadiness, falling or impulsive behavior. The vapor also bypasses the stomach (which limits alcohol intake through vomiting), making it dangerous and unsafe.
Parents are now being warned about the device that apparently anyone can purchase online. “It is ill advised for experimentation among those under 21,” said Dr. Thomas Greenfield, center director of the National Alcohol Research Center in California. “There could be inexperienced people at parties under peer pressure who may find themselves using this method of alcohol consumption. It might not be possible to self-regulate and teenagers, just like adults, could be drunk drivers too.”
Fire safety hazards are a major cause for concern too, with the use of these alcohol vaporizers. According to the London Fire Brigade, ‘products like the Vaportini could lead to a worrying rise in the number of people being burned and causing fires while drunk.” A spokesman said: “The Brigade believes that heating alcohol in this way could increase the risk of someone having a serious fire which could destroy their home or, even worse, kill them.”
Dr. Greenfield also added that no studies have been conducted on the effects of alcohol vapor on humans. Only lab rats and other animals have been experimented upon – these creatures have displayed high levels of intoxication and addiction. And teenagers are, in particular, at risk because the brain is not fully formed and too much alcohol could negatively affect its growth.
The creators of Vaportini argue that it is legal, although a similar device called AWOL (Alcohol without Liquid) is banned in 22 states in America. The Vaportini was invented in 2009 by Chicago-based Julie Palmer, as a novelty device to consume alcohol at Red Kiva, her own bar. The device does not promise zero side effects, and in fact, also warns users that ‘alcohol consumed by a Vaportini will be detected by a blood alcohol test’.
Several other experts on drugs and alcohol consumption have dismissed the Vaportini as a harmful device that needs to be used with utmost vigilance. But there are those who support the device as well, like Kevin Morse, president of Spirit Partners in Greensboro, North Carolina, (the company that markets AWOL). “At the end of the day, it’s just a new way for adults to enjoy alcohol in a different manner,” he said.
I don’t think I’m going to buy into that theory for now. Devices like Vaportini might be safe, but I’d like to see some hard experimental evidence before deciding one way or the other. What about you?