‘Palcohol’ and “Vaportinis:” New ways to get your buzz also full of new concerns for some

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A glass of wine and a bottle of booze are not the only place you'll find liquor these days.   Smoking it, inhaling it, even mixing it from a powder form are all new avenues for people looking for new ways to get a buzz from booze.

While makers of the products and devices may argue the danger lies with the user and not the products themselves, local governments aren't waiting for something to happen. They are trying to get ahead of it.

Take powdered alcohol or “palcohol” as it's called.  It's an alcohol without liquid. Critics say the dry powder meant to be mixed with a liquid could pose potential problems. It's legal in the U.S.  but was banned in Illinois in 2015. Now cities like Naperville are taking it one step further by banning it too giving them more control.

"We don't know enough about it. Until we know more about the consequences of this product and its use throughout the country, we can always take a step back. Until that time, i don't see a reason to take chances with kids' health,” said Naperville mayor Steve Chirico.

Dr. James Ostrenga, a cardiologist with the DuPage medical group sits on Naperville’s liquor commission.

"This product that they've developed, the only appeal that most people can think of is to the underage drinkers because it has the opportunity for concealment and less opportunity to be discovered,” Dr. Ostrenga said. “The only good news I’ve heard from literature is that snorting powdered alcohol in the current form is quite painful.”

If mixing “palcohol” isn't your thing, smoking it is out there too. It's currently legal in Illinois, but now illegal in Naperville. It's ingesting alcohol from its liquid state using a pressurized or vaporizing device. There's the fancy vapshot you can buy or a more homegrown version using a bike pump. The goal is a quick buzz that bypasses your digestive track and goes directly into your bloodstream. It's calorie free, makers claim and reportedly hangover free.  And all the rage on college campuses.

"People who overuse alcohol in traditional sense, your body has built in some defense mechanism to protect you. The most common one is vomiting,” Dr. Ostrenga said.  "Unfortunately, with an inhaled product, that mechanism is not available. It's been bypassed."

The gives the potential for  people to pass out fast.

The maker of the Vaportini says her device is designed to enhance the subtle flavors of alcohol slowly.

"It is about experiencing alcohol in a more sophisticated way and really enjoying the flavors,” said Julie Palmer, Vaportini creator.

It takes about 1 ounce of alcohol and 20 minutes to inhale it.  You can infuse it with other things for more flavor like tea leaves, lemon peel, hibiscus.

The kit essentially starts with a pint glass, a metal ring, a glass globe, a straw and a heat source. The Vaportini is not legal in Naperville, but it is in Illinois.

Supporters say the taste is smooth and full of flavor and a fun experience for a group.

Palmer maintains you can't get drunk from vaping alcohol with her device. The alcohol metabolizes too quickly. She says to have the research to back it up.

“It is an age old practice in Scandinavia in Helsinki.  You pour vodka over your coals in the sauna and breathe in the vapors,” Palmer said.  "The health risks with a vaportini, inhaling things into your lungs, is not fully known."

But banning it in the suburbs, she says, sends the wrong message. She calls it fear mongering, sensationalism and over reaching.

"This is a waste of time and taxpayer money,” Palmer said. “It is unnecessary and redundant due to the state of Illinois already having legislation in place and it's frustrating."

In Naperville, a violation of these laws can get you anywhere from a $100-$500 fine for your first offense.

Naperville  has yet to enforce the law new to the books only since September.



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