Massachusetts Considers Ban on Alcohol Inhaler
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News, I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
AWOL: an oxygen generator and a handheld vaporizer. Alcohol poured into the machine mixes with oxygen producing a mist that the user can breathe in. Several states have banned the sale of AWOL machines, and Massachusetts may become the latest to do so if state Representative John Quinn has his way. He's co-sponsor of a bill to prohibit the devices.
JOHN QUINN: The bill does two things: one, it bans the sale of the use of a hit or the use of one of these and also it bans the sale of the instrument itself in Massachusetts. So you can't buy it and you can't sell from it.
BLOCK: Does that mean that if I were to order it through a website for my own private use would that be banned, too?
QUINN: Yes it would if you were purchasing it, but that's something that as we find in a whole host of areas is awfully tough to regulate the private internet sales, but certainly in public establishments we would be able to regulate it.
BLOCK: So its more geared at bars?
BLOCK: Now as I understand it, as far as anybody knows, Massachusetts doesn't have any of these machines yet so this is sort of a pre-emptive strike I guess.
QUINN: Absolutely. I think, you know, all too often that legislature or government in general is accused of being reactive rather than proactive. So we felt that filing this now and prohibiting these devices from entering the marketplace here was the wise thing to do. Also we've had some very controversial drunk driving legislation here in the last six months, which really has increased the interest in this type of legislation.
BLOCK: Well what's your concern with these AWOL, Alcohol Without Liquid machines? Why do you figure they need to be banned?
QUINN: What it does, it encourages the misuse and abuse of alcohol. If you look at the website, it's the too good to be true, no hangover you know, a quick hit, and it's a healthy adult lifestyle choice. I mean its targeted and marketed to new drinkers, in particular, college age students. And being in Massachusetts, we've got a high rate of college students here and that's why we filed the bill.
BLOCK: I'm looking at the website from the distributor for this device here in the States and they're saying when used responsibly, there's no evidence to indicate greater risks from using AWOL, Alcohol Without Liquid, than consuming alcohol in the traditional way. Do you think that could be true?
QUINN: I'd put that as well if I was trying to sell them all around the country. I can read from a study in the U.K. where this was first introduced that the alcohol vapor passes the stomach and liver and is absorbed through blood vessels in the nose and lungs. This creates a hit up to 10 times more potent than by drinking the same amount of alcohol. So I think the analysis or the description of it, I think part of the, uh, varies from if you're trying to sell it to if you're trying to ban it.
BLOCK: Can you think of any other time when there's been legislation like yours that would ban something that hasn't even hit Massachusetts yet?
QUINN: Not off the top of my head, but I mean, I think that's why we're elected and put up here, uh, this is something that, uh, we've stayed on top of it nationwide. And rather than being criticized for not taking action after something occurs, I think we're trying to be ahead of this and stop this from even being introduced in Massachusetts. So I think it's a, actually a better way to do public policy as opposed to being reactionary.
BLOCK: Representative Quinn, thank you very much.
BLOCK: That's John Quinn. He represents the Ninth Bristol District in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. He spoke with us from the State House in Boston. $00.00
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