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


By Eric Boehm |

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.

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 and follow @EricBoehm87 and @WatchdogOrg on Twitter for more.