If you look online, you might come to the conclusion that people have given up drinking. Instead, everyone seems to be going crazy over vaping alcohol.
DIY alcohol bongs and first impression videos litter the Internet. Hell, even BuzzFeed couldn't resist getting in on the action and posted its own video of people vaping liquor for the first time. Given all this, is everyone just going to be vaping their alcohol by 2020?
As WTSP News in Tampa reports, the Florida Poison Information Center says that in 2015, 2,784 cases of alcohol poisoning were reported among those 13 years and older—but only two of those cases resulted from the inhalation of alcohol. Dr. Alfred Aleguas of the Florida Poison Information Center at Tampa General Hospital says it's likely that the numbers of those inhaling alcohol are much larger and that the official figures are underreported; he says they show calls placed to only three Florida Poison Centers.
And Aleguas wants you to know that smoking or vaping your booze is not great for you: "Absolutely as bad as drinking, maybe worse," he says. That's because the vapor or fumes go straight into your lungs—without taking a detour through your stomach, intestines, and liver. Avoiding those organs allows the alcohol to absorb more quickly without being metabolized. In other words, "You have really no clue as to how much you're ingesting," Aleguas says.
It might sound great to bypass all those pesky bodily organs, and thereby rule out the need to ride the porcelain bus if you've imbibed too much. But Aleguas points out that vomiting is a useful clue that you've drank too much—a clue you don't get if you're smoking the stuff.
You also have to factor in that smoking or vaping booze is not all that great for your lungs. According to Aleguas, the ethanol absorbed from smoking or vaping can in fact damage your lungs and lead to infection. Worst of all—at least from a layperson's perspective—is that you get the calories anyway: "You drink it, you smoke it, you inhale it, you're still getting alcohol. So, if you're getting alcohol you're getting the calories," Aleguas reports.
Although it is legal to vape alcohol if you are over 21, in some states it is illegal to buy, sell or use vaping devices made specifically for alcohol. In Florida, for example, if you're caught using such a device, you face a $250 fine.
MUNCHIES reached out to the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation to get a better picture of just who exactly is vaping liquor and if media reports on the trend were, in fact, exaggerated. Joseph Lee, the medical director for the youth continuum of the foundation, says, "Every year something new pops up like vodka eyeball shots or people using alcohol suppositories. There's always going to be new ways to do substances, but the people who are prone to compulsive use, the addictive risk community, they are all about bigger, better, faster, and more. Because they are using so frequently, unless vaping alcohol suddenly becomes so accessible that you can easily do it all the time, then it's not likely to become widespread among them. Why would people who are using that much go so far out of their way to vape alcohol every single time?"
"As a nationwide trend, I'm just not seeing the evidence yet," explains Lee. In fact, he told MUNCHIES that he wasn't even aware of a single nationwide study on the topic.
Sure, YouTube might be littered with videos of frat bros vaping Jäger until they fall over, but those with serious abuse alcohol problems aren't going to simply hop onto the bandwagon when there are still so many roadblocks in their path.