NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Remember the "organic" movement? Society may have just turned on a dime once again. We seem to be heading in the opposite direction, with a new fervor for synthetic products. Consider the portable party combination of electronic cigarettes and powered alcohol.
E-cig sales topped $1.5 billion in 2013, with use essentially doubling each year since their introduction in 2006, according to Fitch, the ratings service. The popularity of the mock cigarettes is so significant that the FDA has stepped in to regulate the product.
That may be a good idea, because other than liquid nicotine, not too many people really know what's inside these things. While manufacturers are not required to disclose the ingredients in e-cigarette liquid, nor the substances present in the vapor inhaled and exhaled by the user, research has shown at least 10 chemicals have been found in e-cig vapor that are on the California Prop 65 list of carcinogens and reproductive toxins.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported a dramatic increase in e-cigarette-related calls to poison centers. In February alone, more than half (51.1%) of the calls involved young children under the age of five. The FDA has proposed a federal minimum age limit of 18 to purchase such vapor products.
"This report raises another red flag about e-cigarettes – the liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes can be hazardous," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. "Use of these products is skyrocketing and these poisonings will continue. E-cigarette liquids as currently sold are a threat to small children because they are not required to be childproof, and they come in candy and fruit flavors that are appealing to children."
The FDA proposes the regulation of E-cigarette ingredients, but not the flavorings. The agency is still studying the long-term effects on individual health and further regulation will likely be recommended as new information is gathered. Meanwhile, there is little doubt that the price of the product will rise: state and federal taxing authorities are rushing to the revenue trough to gain their share of the liquid assets.
And what better to accompany a simulated smoke than a powdered drink?
Palcohol, a powder version of vodka and rum with the same alcoholic content, is – in spite of recent media confusion -- expected to be available for sale this fall, according to the company's website. Mark Phillips, the company's founder, says the product was approved for sale "some time ago," but the labels required a "minor change" that has already been resubmitted to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).
"One package weighs about an ounce and is small enough to fit into any pocket," the website says. "Palcohol can be transported in your luggage without the fear of bottles breaking. In any situation where weight and breakage is an issue, Palcohol provides the answer. Palcohol, when used as directed, by adding five ounces of liquid to it, is equal to a standard mixed drink."
The powdered cocktail, equivalent to one shot of rum or vodka, contains alcohol, natural flavorings and Sucralose as a sweetener. Initial flavors will include a Cosmopolitan, Mojito, the Powderita (Margarita) and Lemon Drop.
Much has been said about the danger of snorting the powdered alcohol, to which the website responds, "We have seen comments about goofballs wanting to snort it. Don't do it! It is not a responsible or smart way to use the product. To take precautions against this action, we've added volume to the powder so it would take more than a half of a cup of powder to get the equivalent of one drink up your nose. You would feel a lot of pain for very little gain."
—Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet