A New Alcohol Toy—And Why It Will Be Banned Quickly
This sounds a bit like a description of love.
It's not. It is a description of a new product called "Wahh"created by scientists that allows a user to administer a dose of alcohol via aerosol spray to the mouth that gets the user INSTANTLY drunk—but, the effects wear off in seconds.
When I first read this it immediately sounded to me like one of the odd features of a society in decline described dystopian tale of the future; something that the narrator describes in passing to drive home the decadence of the society in question. The article continues:
"The 'Wahh Quantum Sensations' delivers just a miniscule dose of alcohol – 0.075ml – directly in to your mouth, but thanks to the aerosol effect, the effect is instantaneous. With a typical drink containing 40 to 60ml of alcohol, the scientists say it would take a thousand sprays to get the equivalent amount of alcohol into your system."
This device goes on sale in Europe soon for 20 Euros and will deliver 20 doses.
I've never been a big user of drugs. Nor have I actually indulged in alcohol all that liberally in my life. But, I am not without experience in the effects of a variety of mind altering substances. This experience tells me that this new device will be an immediate hit when it comes to market. It will sell out where ever it is sold. It will be the center of parties, the active ingredient in newly devised games and will be a constant on every college campus in America.
It is also likely to be regulated out of existence.
Phillipe Starck, the designer of the Wahh noted yesterday, "The question is how to do good without doing harm. Wahh is an alternative that offers the idea of intoxication without its adverse effects."
This begs the question, what is the "good" of this device and what is the harm?
I've always contended that if you could make a wine that mimicked in every way —taste, aroma, texture—the greatest wines in the world, but did not contain alcohol, the majority of people would still choose the alcohol-laden beverage. I believe this is the case because I believe that one of the great attractions of alcohol is that it is magic. Ingest it and it physically changes you in ways that can be felt and observed and heard by the user and that this transformation brought on by the magic substance can be witnessed by others. Alcohol, as well as other drugs, have a near alchemic affect on the user.
This alteration of the mind and body that comes with the use of alcohol in its many forms is, I believe, at the heart of the fear and scepticism that society has directed at alcohol and drinking. Sure, the stupid stuff we humans do when experiencing the effect of alcohol causes many to possess disdain for drinking alcohol. But go to the heart of the matter and it is the remarkable transformative effect alcohol delivers that repels and worries so many.
I've never been surprised or confused by the disdain for alcohol that many religious communities possess. Here is a substance that has a sure and obvious effect on a person; a real transformative effect that often soothes trouble minds and bodies or acts as cloak covering ones troubles; something that is supposed to happen when you embrace the holy spirit—but doesn't always happen. Many religious folks understand alcohol as a usurper.
But, in order to feel the effects of alcohol, one always had to work at it. Even with spirits one would need to throw back a couple quick shots, then wait to feel the effects if that's what was desired. And wine takes even longer and even more to get the user where they often want to be. With this new product, there is no more waiting. Granted, the effect is apparently momentary, which means that it is unlikely to to encroach on territory claimed by wine, beer and spirits. Nonetheless, Wahh brings on the magic transformative effects of alcohol without the work: instant alchemy.
Even if the Wahh is shown to have no harmful side effects, I'm having a hard time imaginng how it won't quickly get the attention of government agencies who will respond quickly to the calls of the prevention community to ban the product, or at least regulate it in the extreme.
The "Counter Culture" of the 1960s and early 1970s got its name because many of its facets ran counter to prevailing wisdom and the prevailing culture. Near the center of the Counter Culture was the use of drugs to alter one's view of reality. We saw how this offset culture went over with the mainstream. This new product is meant to do one thing: alter one's reality, albeit, for a moment. There is no reason to believe it's use won't be viewed in the same way marijuana and LSD were viewed by the mainstream.
What's really interesting is that it appears that altering one's consciousness is not always viewed as bad. It's only when something is ingested to that affect when the recoiling begins. For example, roller coasters change the way we feel and experience the world. They are just fine. Fun houses, with their skewed mirrors and tilted floors do the same. They are OK. But ingest something that fucks up your perspective and society starts to worry not only about the existential threat, but about the spiritual effect.
Wine's ability to alter our mind and body largely gets a pass and always has for a number of reasons: It's made from the benign and tasty grape, it has been an important part of many cultures, it has provided medicinal effects, it tastes delicious and its manufacture has added substantially to economies. But when you strip away all this, you have a mind altering substance.
Wahh is a straight forward mind altering substance without anything like history, culture, and economies to protect it from the ire of those who worry about easy alterations of the mind. What makes it unique is the instant arrival of its effect and its equally—apparantly—retreat. This makes it a toy. But a toy that will need to be highly regulated if it arrives on our shores.
What I'm looking forward to—besides trying the Wahh—is the intellectual excursion that will be taken by those who will argue to ban or highly regulate the Wahh. Given the mind altering effect is quickly gone, how will it be argued that the Wahh is too dangerous to be easily sold and used? Taking leave of one's senses can lead to dangerous outcomes? That's too purely a double standard when set net to so many other experiences. The health risk? Maybe, if it exists. At the very least we will see its use banned by minors who, it will be said, are incapable of handling an alteration of the mind, no matter how brief.
The Wahh is something relatively new. And something relatively interesting.