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AWOL Devices Banned in North Carolina

Contact: Rev. Mark H. Creech, Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc., 919-787-0606, calact@aol.com

RALEIGH, NC., June 21 /Christian Newswire/ -- Alcohol inhalers, popularized in Europe and marketed in the United States as "the ultimate party toy" since 2004, are now banned in North Carolina -- thanks to a new law that should send a Greensboro business packing.

Senate Bill 125 - Alcohol Inhalers Illegal, approved by the General Assembly yesterday (June 20), makes it unlawful to inhale fumes for the purpose of intoxication, or to manufacture, sell, give, deliver, possess or use an alcohol vaporizing device. It also makes it illegal to possess or sell ethyl alcohol for the purpose of inhaling.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Steve Goss (D-45th) with companion House legislation introduced by fellow Democrat Pryor Gibson (69th District), came about as a result of a request from the Christian Action League of North Carolina.

The Rev. Mark Creech, the CAL's executive director, said he learned about the dangers of AWOL (alcohol without liquid) machines at the American Council on Alcohol Problems annual convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, in September 2006. His concern grew when he learned that the machines being sold all over the United States were coming out of North Carolina -- from Greensboro-based Spirit Partners Inc.

In January, Creech went to Senate leaders asking for a ban, and was thrilled when the Goss and Gibson bills were introduced.

"More than a third of young people begin drinking by eighth grade and 5 million U.S. high school students binge drink at least once a month," Creech said. "With these kinds of alcohol abuse statistics staring us in the face, imagine what would happen if users could fast track the mind-altering effects of alcohol and, at the same time, sidestep the hangover.... That's exactly the appeal of AWOL.

"It is not complimentary of the great State of North Carolina that this new scourge for alcohol abuse is being marketed from within our own borders."

Sen. Goss noted: "The passage of the Alcohol Inhalers or AWOL bill is a significant step forward by our state in fighting the terrible dangers and results of alcohol abuse. The AWOL machine is dangerous in that it is marketed to appeal to youth and college students and its demise in North Carolina is an answer to prayer by me and many other North Carolinians. I am especially grateful to Rev. Mark Creech and The Christian Action League of North Carolina for bringing the existence of these machines to my attention. It has been a privilege partnering with them in the ongoing battle against the dangers of alcohol."

Rep. Gibson echoed similar sentiments, saying: "I am a strong opponent of alcohol abuse and these devices are clearly abusing intoxicants. We are very fortunate that our General Assembly understands the balance of personal rights (for those adults who wish to drink) and the exploitation of addiction of alcohol....this was an easy decision for our body. It sends a clear message that we will be responsible and diligent in alcohol control."

The device, invented by British entrepreneur Dominic Simler with a patent pending in the United States, consists of an oxygen generator and a hand-held vaporizer. The user pours his or her favorite spirit (an 80-proof liquor is what the AWOL marketers recommend) into the machine which is mixed with the oxygen to produce a mist that is inhaled through the mouth, allowing alcohol to enter the bloodstream through the lungs and go straight to the brain.

While AWOL marketers say the effects are the same as from drinking alcohol "only milder," many medical experts disagree, describing intoxication as quick and intense.

As of April 2007, the alcohol vaporizing devices had been banned in twenty-two states. But North Carolina’s law has a potential national impact in that it will make it illegal for Spirit Partners to continue to sell the AWOL devices, which it does now, via several Web sites.

"Once the law takes effect, they will have to give up those machines in North Carolina or move on to another state," Creech said.

The Raleigh-based Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc. is a Christian public policy organization that addresses social, moral and ethical issues from a Christian worldview. The Christian Action League has been in existence in the Tar Heel State since the 1930s and currently represents conservative evangelical churches from 15 denominations.