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Nanny-state state of the week: MD may become first to ban Vaportinis

By   /   April 11, 2014  /   No Comments

Part 1 of 22 in the series Nanny State of the Week

By Eric Boehm | Watchdog.org

It’s legal to drink alcohol in your home. And it’s legal to smoke in your home.

But in Maryland, it could soon be illegal to smoke your drink, even in your own home.

Maryland state lawmakers have approved a ban on Vaportinis, a new device that allows consumers to inhale fumes from heated alcoholic drinks. Think of it as a combination of a martini and hookah, or perhaps like larger scale version of an e-cigarette with booze instead of tobacco and nicotine.

The Vaportini is sold as a “revolutionary way of consuming alcohol,” but it’s actually a pretty simple device. A glass globe filled with liquor sits above a small candle, which warms the alcohol just enough to make it give off vapors to be inhaled.


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Though it allows users to get drunk more quickly because the inhaled alcohol can pass into the blood stream through one’s lungs, reviewers say the buzz also passes more quickly and the amount of alcohol contained in each use is about the same as a double shot that can be purchased from any bar or easily poured at home.

The facts seem to matter little to Maryland lawmakers, who are just plain scared of the newfangled contraption.

“I took a look at what the vaporizer does, and I didn’t think it would be a good thing to be doing,” Del. Charles Barkley, D-Montgomery, who sponsored the bill, told Capital News Service of Maryland. “Some doctors were unsure what effect (vaporizing alcohol) would have on the brain.”

SIR CHARLES: State Del. Charles Barkley says people shouldn’t use Vaportinis because he “didn’t think it would be a good thing to be doing.” Obvious answer: ban it!

You have to respect the gall of someone who thinks it’s his job to ban any activity that he doesn’t think “would be a good thing to be doing.”

Barkley gets bonus points for admitting medical professionals have yet to come to a consensus about whether such devices are actually, you know, dangerous. Or at least whether they are more or less dangerous than consuming alcohol in its traditional form (something most doctors agree can be a health concern, yet lawmakers haven’t banned).

But Barkley has to share the blame, or the spotlight, with the rest of the Maryland Legislature. The state Senate voted unanimously this week to pass the ban, following on the heels of a 105-28 vote by the state House in March.

Gov. Martin O’Malley hasn’t indicated so far if he will sign it.

Julie Palmer, who invented the Vaportini at a Chicago bar in 2010 and now markets the devices, said she doesn’t understand the reasoning behind the ban.

“Using a Vaportini won’t put people over the legal alcohol limit,” Palmer told CNS. “There is no danger of overdose.”

The only complaints she’s fielded are from people who didn’t get drunk from using the device, she added.

Even if O’Malley signs the legislation, the Vaportini will remain legal, for now, in 49 other states. But hysteria over new forms of alcohol tends to spread quickly — remember the short-lived and legislatively-killed run of Four Loko a few years ago?

At least 20 other states already have bans on so-called “alcohol without liquid” devices, or AWOL machines, which allow users to inhale a vaporized form of alcohol instead of Palmer’s device that uses a candle to evaporate alcoholic fumes.

Regardless of how many bans come spilling out of state capitols, it’s a good bet Americans will keep finding new and innovative ways to get drunk.

Or we can just stick to the old, still legal, ways of doing it.

As Steve Inskeep of NPR put it:

If the governor signs the bill, Marylanders will have to stick to a regular martini, or a boilermaker, or a shotgunning a beer, a six-pack, straight from the bottle or methods that remain so far perfectly legal.

Meanwhile, Maryland lawmakers are just getting drunk on power.

Boehm can be reached at EBoehm@Watchdog.org and follow @EricBoehm87 and @WatchdogOrg on Twitter for more.

Part of 22 in the series Nanny State of the Week
  1. Nanny-state state of the week: MD may become first to ban Vaportinis
  2. Nanny-state city of the week: Minneapolis wants to ban take-out trays
  3. Skim is in: CT lawmakers want to ban whole milk in day cares
  4. Nanny state of the week: Fairfax, VA, wants to limit the right to assemble
  5. Nanny state of the week: SC — and Schumer — for duplicative efforts to ban powdered alcohol
  6. Nanny of the Week: Virginia hoses down car wash fundraisers
  7. Nanny of the Week: Even a summertime trip to the beach can’t be nanny-free
  8. Nanny of the week: Federal authorities think feral cats can read signs
  9. Nanny of the week: Cambridge wants to ban ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft
  10. Nanny-stater of the week: NY lawmaker wants to ban photos with tigers
  11. Nanny-stater of the Week: Who needs cupcakes and candy? Here, have a pencil
  12. Nanny-stater of the week: Fargo limits kids to less than four shots of juice per day
  13. Nanny-stater of the week: Wisconsin towns fight repeal of bow ban
  14. Nanny of the week: No fun in the sun, thanks to Congress and FDA
  15. Nanny-stater of the week: DOT to ban cell phone use on planes
  16. Nanny of the week: The out-of-control trend of arresting non-helicopter moms
  17. Nanny of the Week: Vermont city could ban ‘human activity’
  18. Nanny of the Week: Mississippi makes bird feeders illegal – by accident
  19. Nanny of the week: MO town bans breastfeeding near pools
  20. Nanny of the Week: School bans lip balm, 11 year-old girl fights back
  21. Watchdog.org blows lid off Vermont’s bake sale brownie ban
  22. Nanny of the Week: Seattle imposes fine on residents who throw away food

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Eric is a reporter for Watchdog.org and former bureau chief for Pennsylvania Independent. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he enjoys great weather and low taxes while writing about state governments, pensions, labor issues and economic/civil liberty. Previously, he worked for more than three years in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, covering Pennsylvania state politics and occasionally sneaking across the border to Delaware to buy six-packs of beer. He has also lived (in order of desirability) in Brussels, Belgium, Pennsburg, Pa., Fairfield, Conn., and Rochester, N.Y. His work has appeared in Reason Magazine, National Review Online, The Freeman Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Examiner and elsewhere. He received a bachelor's degree from Fairfield University in 2009, but he refuses to hang on his wall until his student loans are fully paid off sometime in the mid-2020s. When he steps away from the computer, he enjoys drinking craft beers in classy bars, cheering for an eclectic mix of favorite sports teams (mostly based in Philadelphia) and traveling to new places.