OPINION: Ban the AWOL! - Southern Maryland Headline News


By Maryland Senator Roy Dyson

A potentially dangerous machine is currently available for sale on the internet and is available at an undetermined amount of bars. Legislation before my committee – Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs would prohibit these machines.

House Bill 670 – Alcohol Without Liquid Machines – prohibits a person from using, possessing, purchasing, transferring or offering for sale for use an alcohol without liquid (AWOL) machine. If the bill passes, the offender is guilty of a misdemeanor and faces a fine of up to $1,000.

Currently, there is no prohibition against using these machines.

An AWOL machine vaporizes alcoholic beverages and blends them with pure oxygen or other gas, crating an alcohol vapor that can be inhaled. These machines allow people to inhale drinks as potent as vodka or absinthe through a tube into the nose or mouth, enabling the vapor to bypass the stomach and liver and to be absorbed through blood vessels in the nose or lungs, creating a quicker, more intense effect on the brain than if one were to drink an alcoholic beverage the normal way, according to the State Highway Administration.

Currently, even children and teenagers can buy this machine off the internet for less than $300. Therefore anyone, any child can put alcohol into their system in a very fast and dangerous way. Additionally, multiple users can use this device which means saliva from the previous user will be inhaled by the next and subsequent user or users.

The bill to ban these devices has prominent supporters including the Maryland Department of Transportation, Triple AAA Mid-Atlantic, the Comptroller of Maryland and the Maryland State Police.

In testimony submitted by AAA Mid-Atlantic, they write: While AWOL doesn’t directly link “drinking and driving,” common sense dictates that the sale and usage of what appears to be inherently dangerous machines will lead to more tragic accidents on the road that are linked to alcohol.”

Triple AAA points out that by using these machines, this form of inhalation can lead to over consumption and give a person false impression of how much alcohol is in their system which sets up the strong possibility people believing they are sober when they are not, getting behind the wheel and causing havoc. This is one of the reasons the Maryland State Police can out so strongly on behalf of this legislation.

Another reason MSP is behind the bill is that AWOL machines also have the potential of creating false breathalyzer tests due to the lag between intoxicants and alcohol entering the blood stream.

Research has also shown that these machines are 10 times more potent than drinking alcohol.

I must admit I was not aware of these types of machines until I heard testimony on this bill presented by its sponsor, Delegate Susan K. McComas (R) of Harford County before my committee.

Currently, 16 states prohibit AWOL devices including our neighboring friends in Virginia and Pennsylvania. Six states – Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, North Dakota, New Jersey and South Carolina are considering passing this bill.

With my strong support for this bill, I am hoping Maryland is the next state to prohibit these machines.

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