An English businessman named Dominic Simler has created a machine that takes hard liquor and reconstitutes it as a breathable mist, which Simler claims is a low-calorie, low-carb, non-hangover-inducing way to consume alcohol.

The invention is called AWOL (Alcohol Without Liquid), and it looks, well, like a crack pipe, or maybe like an asthma inhaler (but mostly like a crack pipe). The device consists of two parts — the vaporizer, into which you pour your liquor of choice, and the oxygen generator, which pumps oxygen through a tube connected to the vaporizer, producing a mist that is then inhaled into the lungs.

AWOL was introduced in the United Kingdom in 2003, and early this year a company called Spirit Partners purchased a license to market the device in the United States. While the AWOL USA Web site celebrates the ”euphoric high” from inhaling oxygenated and vaporized alcohol, various public-health and law-enforcement puritans, looking to ruin everyone’s good, clean, liquor-breathing fun, have raised a few concerns.

For one, it turns out that alcohol inhaled through the AWOL machine goes into the lungs and is then dispersed into the bloodstream, which critics contend can get users drunk much more quickly and intensely than those who prefer their cocktails the old-fashioned, absorbed-through-the-small-intestine way. To ward off possible alcohol toxicity from binge breathing, the AWOL machine is calibrated so that it takes 15 minutes to inhale one shot of hard liquor, and its inventor recommends that users don’t exceed two sessions in a 24-hour period.

Seems fair enough — and yet in the days leading up to the machine’s American debut at the Manhattan night club Trust, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, responding to the concerns of local politicians, referred the question of AWOL’s legality to the New York State Liquor Authority. So Spirit Partners unveiled its magical machine using Gatorade instead of alcohol, fearing it might otherwise violate a New York state law dating back to 1934 that prohibits the dispensing of alcohol from a different container than the one it was delivered in.

Apparently vaporized liquor is no lower in calories and carbohydrates than liquid alcohol, and there’s no proof that it doesn’t produce hangovers. But what neither Eliot Spitzer nor ”science” nor any of the buzzkills at the New York State Liquor Authority can deny is that, in the words of one anonymous enthusiast quoted by Spirit Partners, ”this is the greatest thing since the still.”

More here.