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OP-ED | Palcohol: Ridding Connecticut Of An Imaginary Scourge

by | Oct 9, 2015 4:30am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Analysis, Child Welfare, Opinion, Public Health, Public Safety

Wired via Youtube
Of the 126 acts of legislation that went into effect in Connecticut on Oct. 1, one of them (An Act Concerning Alcoholic Liquor) contains nine different provisions. Most are common sense measures such as allowing package stores to sell cigars and setting guidelines that permit micro breweries to peddle their wares at farmers markets.

But the provision in the omnibus bill that received the most attention is also the one that makes the least sense. Perhaps its proponents mean well, but the ban on the sale and possession of powdered alcohol is entirely unnecessary and fueled in large measure by hysteria and assertions that have little basis in fact.

Powdered alcohol, now marketed by the trade name Palcohol, was approved in March by the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which found no basis in the law for denying approval for sale. But that hasn’t stopped politicians from seizing on it, sometimes with the fervor of a Baptist minister delivering a temperance sermon.

State legislators in New York also have enacted a prohibition, and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, has called upon the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban it outright. He called powdered alcohol “the Kool-Aid of teenage binge drinking.” Apparently, hyperbole is contagious because Schumer’s rhetoric spread into a neighboring state.

“They’re snorting it,’’ Connecticut state Rep. Pam Staneski, R-Milford, told her House colleagues during deliberations. “Why? Because inhaling alcohol gets them to the effect they want, which is to be in a drunken stupor . . . They wind up with major nose-bleeds and headaches.’‘

If that’s what young people are doing, then they’re barking up the wrong tree. Wired magazine’s Brent Rose did a fascinating, if unscientific, study designed to educate the Palcohol alarmists on the absurdity of most of their contentions.

Palcohol would not give him a sample of its product for preview, so Rose recreated it using this helpful recipe published last year in Popular Science.

Among Rose’s findings were that the volume of powdered alcohol needed to absorb one drink through the nostrils is prohibitive. Palcohol will come in 29-gram packets. And each packet contains the same alcoholic content as one drink.

Though Rose wryly professed not be an expert on cocaine, he said a typical line of coke is about one tenth of a gram, so a teen looking for a quick high would have to snort 290 lines of powdered alcohol to ingest the equivalent of one drink. That would take about an hour. Meanwhile, the stuff stings your nostrils like salt on an open wound.

Another unfounded concern is that the drink of an unsuspecting coed or the juice box of an innocent toddler could be spiked in a flash while the owner of the beverage is momentarily looking away. Yet again, the frightening scenario falls apart up further inspection. It takes minutes of stirring to mix a 29-gram packet of Palcohol into a drink. Meanwhile dumping a jigger of grain alcohol into a glass takes all of a few seconds.

Others are terrified that powdered alcohol’s concealability will enable teenagers to sneak it into concerts, movies, and other venues where alcohol is typically prohibited. Really? Each packet of Palcohol weighs almost two-thirds of a pound and packs the wallop of one drink. How many pounds of the stuff would you have to sneak into a ballgame to get you and your friends tipsy?

Kudos to Rep. Arthur O’Neill, R-Southbury, who quite sensibly asked why his colleagues didn’t want to regulate powdered alcohol instead of banning it altogether. O’Neill also noted the folly of one state banning such an inebriant while others allow it. Furthermore, a well-regulated substance is typically safer than one bought on the black market.

But I digress. All the powdered booze kerfuffle proves is that too many politicians will pounce on an issue because it’s simply too good to pass up. After all, who could possibly be against protecting our children from danger? It looks great on your brag sheet and maybe no one will notice if it later turns out to be a turkey.

The problem is one of crying wolf. The next time an elected official warns about the “dangers” of anything, constituents everywhere should take out their BS detectors and put them to good use.

Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at ctdevilsadvocate.com and is news editor of The Berkshire Record in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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(4) Archived Comments

posted by: Clean Agent | October 9, 2015  6:43am

It is the same situation with the gun laws in this state. Take out your BS detector. Nobody is safer now. Elect idiots and they will do what idiots do, waste time passing idiotic laws. Next session they will pass laws banning nuclear powered skateboards because we all know how many children can be hurt riding them. The act will most likely be titled, “An act concerning the rights of unicorns and purple elephants” (Because no act is named for what it actually does)

posted by: bob8/57 | October 10, 2015  10:43am


Republicans… protecting the peoples right to cirrhosis and death, for a price.

posted by: Terry Cowgill | October 12, 2015  6:27am

Terry Cowgill

@Clean Agent: Agree in the sense that more gun control will not necessarily lead to less gun violence. But AK-47s and Palcohol packets cannot be compared. One is an offensive weapon; the other can only hurt yourself.

@bob8/57: Maybe you should read the column before commenting. Rep. Pam Staneski, R-Milford, was one of the lawmakers most opposed to powdered alcohol. It might be fun for you to turn this into a partisan issue, but the shoe doesn’t fit in this case.

posted by: dano860 | October 13, 2015  9:46pm

This like the lousy legislation that they attempt to pass on plastic grocery bags. The guise they utilize is environmental and simple litter. The fact remains that of the millions of bags used in Ct the problem that they pose is minimal and we don’t have many Sea Turtles to worry about in Long Island Sound . What they really want is to impose a fee on plastic bags in orders to boost revenue, taxes.
When it comes to alcohol the powdered version will create very little problems compared to the liquid version.
My sister is a nurse at a prestigious Rhode Island college. A couple times a year she has students show up at the office with acute alcohol poisoning. The method they use is one that allows them to be intoxicated but eliminates any odor on their breath and it can’t be detected by a breath test. They soak tampons in booze and insert them into body cavities below the belt line, male and female students are doing it. I’ll guarantee they wouldn’t waste their time with powdered alcohol.
Personally I don’t see the need for Palcohol unless you live out in the woods and have a good water supply. It is lighter to carry.

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