You can sprinkle it on your food, mix it with water, or sniff it from a fancy glass. Powdered alcohol and “vaportinis” are the latest trend in “drinking” and it’s raising concerns for the workplace. This post will look at who is buying into these trends and what employers can do to minimize the risks associated with these non-traditional methods of alcohol consumption.
The Vaportini (Inhaled Alcohol Vapours)
Inhaled alcohol vapours (also referred to as Alcohol Without Liquid (AWOL)) are ingested through the lungs, which means alcohol gets into the bloodstream more quickly than when it is absorbed through the stomach. Because of this, the individual gets intoxicated a lot faster and the effects of the alcohol are felt almost right away. Researchers say this makes inhaling alcohol vapours far more dangerous than the alcohol that you drink.
The Vaportini is a specific brand of an alcohol vapourizer that involves pouring the liquid into a glass sphere, heating it up with a candle and inhaling the vapours with a straw. It is available in both Canada and the U.S. In addition to this product, “home-made” versions of alcohol vapourizers are gaining popularity among younger adults.
Palcohol (Powdered Alcohol)
Alcohol in a powdered form is not a new concept – the first U.S. patent was granted in the 1960s. However, it wasn’t until this week that a particular brand actually received approval from the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). However, the TTB subsequently rescinded the approval, saying the labels were approved in error. Still, Palcohol’s manufacturers are confident their product will be on sale in the U.S. by the fall. Health Canada has not commented yet on whether it will be sold in Canada.
Palcohol is a powder that you mix with water or other liquid. One package weighs about an ounce, which could pose a problem for workplaces. As the manufacturer states, Palcohol is “small enough to fit in any pocket,” which means it could be easier to sneak into the workplace undetected.
There are also potential health and safety risks associated with misusing this powdered form of alcohol if users consume a fair bit of powder without dissolving it with the recommended amount of water, not recognizing excessive alcohol ingestion has occurred.
What can employers do?
When it comes to testing in the workplace, employers can be reassured that both inhaling alcohol vapours and ingesting powdered alcohol would be detected on a breath alcohol or urine alcohol test (provided the alcohol consumed is ethanol, the same type of alcohol currently found in traditional beer, wine, and spirits).
In addition to testing, supervisors should be properly trained on how to look out for the signs and symptoms of alcohol use, misuse, and abuse in the workplace, and all managers, supervisors, and workers should be educated on the dangers of non-traditional intake of any substance in order to prevent the health and safety risks associated with their use.
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