December 9, 2004
“ALCOHOL WITHOUT LIQUID” (AWOL) MACHINES
By: Daniel Duffy, Principal Analyst
You asked (1) if “Alcohol Without Liquid” (AWOL) machines are legal in Connecticut, (2) if any state has outlawed them, (3) if the harmful alcohol effects of using AWOL machines are different from those of drinking alcohol, and (4) how do the driving under the influence (DUI) laws apply to alcohol consumed through an AWOL machine.
AWOL machines are legal in Connecticut. The alcohol consumed through them is regulated under the Liquor Control Act just as if it were consumed as a beverage.
We did not find any laws in other jurisdictions relating to AWOL, but we did find a bill in New York State and one in Congress. Neither bill prohibits the machines. Both regulate their use.
We did not find a scientific study comparing the harmful effects of alcohol consumed through an AWOL to the effects of alcohol consumed as a beverage. We located an article originally published in the Manchester Guardian in which a professor compares the effects.
The driving under the influence law is based on the level of alcohol in the bloodstream. The measurement of alcohol blood level is not affected by the method of consumption. A copy of a recent OLR report on driving under the influence blood tests is attached (OLR 2003-R-0896).
AWOL machines are produced by Spirit Partners. The machine consists of two components, an oxygen generator and a hand-held vaporizer, according to the company's website (Spirit Partners). Tubes from the generator attach to the vaporizer. The user's choice of liquor is poured into the vaporizer. The AWOL machine mixes the liquor and oxygen and produces a mist that is inhaled by the user through the mouth.
State law does not prohibit AWOL machines. But alcohol consumed through an AWOL machine is subject to the Liquor Control Act just like alcohol consumed from a glass or bottle. By law “alcohol” means “the product of distillation of any fermented liquid, rectified either once or more often, whatever may be the origin thereof...” (CGS § 30-1(2)).
We did not find laws in any other jurisdiction banning AWOL machines. We did locate two related bills, one in Congress and the other in New York. The federal bill prohibits introducing, or delivering for introduction, into interstate commerce an AWOL machine unless the Commissioner of Food and Drugs has approved it. The bill makes approval contingent on the commissioner's finding that the applicant has satisfactorily demonstrated that the machine is safe (HR 5173). The bill has been referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce.
The New York bill prohibits bars from serving more than three twenty-minute dosages of vaporized alcohol, or more than the equivalent of three single shots, during any set period of time (Assembly bill 11833). The bill has been referred to the Committee on Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry.
Leeds University professor Alastair Hay stated that inhaled alcohol would not have any effect on the brain other than the usual soporific effect of alcohol. He was quoted in an article originally published in the Manchester Guardian. Hay noted that the alcohol would be absorbed into
the blood much more quickly than if it had been ingested. Hay speculated that there could be damage done to nasal passages “eventually.” Hay may have been unaware that the mist is inhaled through the mouth rather than the nose. A copy of the article as reprinted by the Minnesota State Police Drug Recognition Experts newsletter is attached.