FRANKFORT, Ky. -- The state that claims to produce the world's best bourbon has banned at least one way to consume it: vaporized for easy inhalation.
Gov. Steve Beshear signed a bill on Tuesday prohibiting the sale, purchase or use of alcohol vaporizers, which are devices that resemble asthma inhalers but produce intoxicating fumes.
"These devices have generated considerable concern from the law enforcement and medical communities due to the increased potential for extreme alcohol impairment or consuming alcohol in deadly concentrations," Beshear told advocates who gathered in the Kentucky Capitol for the signing ceremony.
When the law takes effect in July, Kentucky will join more than 20 other states that have similar bans, said Sherry Green, executive director of the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws. Tennessee, home to Jack Daniel's whiskey, and California, the nation's leading wine producer, are among the other states that have such prohibitions.
Green said some legislatures instituted the bans after realizing that their laws against underage "drinking" didn't necessarily address "inhaling" alcohol. Lawmakers, she said, didn't see the need before the vaporizers hit the market.
State Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, had pushed for two years for Kentucky's ban on the devices that have been marketed as "the ultimate party toy" and as a "no calorie" method of consuming alcohol.
"We do not have one brain cell to waste in the state of Kentucky when it relates to our young people," Westrom said.
Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers' Association, said the liquor industry supported the legislation to keep the vaporizers out of the state. "We wanted to make sure that they're banned in Kentucky before they become the problem that they're becoming elsewhere," he said.
Kentucky's distillers, including Wild Turkey, Maker's Mark and Jim Beam, produce and sell more than $1 billion of bourbon a year. But the devices can be used for just about any kind of alcohol, including wine, vodka, even martinis.
The governor said Kentucky's ban is aimed at "AWOL" devices marketed by North Carolina-based Spirit Partners Inc. Kevin Morse, president of the company, didn't return telephone calls to The Associated Press seeking comment.
Spirit Partners contends the product is safe.
"When used responsibly, there is no evidence to indicate greater risks from using AWOL than consuming alcohol in the traditional way," according to a press release on the company's Web site. "AWOL should be used no more than two 20-minute sessions within a 24-hour period."