Monthly Archives: June 2007

Chewing Tobacco Raises Breathalyzer Results?

Yes.  Consider this article from a past edition of the Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader:

Man Blames Chewing Tobacco for DUI Charge

Naticoke, Penn.  â€“  Could chewing tobacco make a man legally drunk?

John Daniel Drury Sr. thinks so.

Drury, who faces a drunken driving charge, told Nanticoke police that the brand of chewing tobacco he uses, Red Man Select, contains Tennessee Whiskey.

Police said Drury, 42, of Pine Street in the Hanover Section of Nanticoke, failed a series of field sobriety tests. A breath test Drury took showed an alcohol level of 0.144 percent, police said.

Mr. Drury is right.  But how can a tiny amount of Tennessee Whiskey in a wad of chewing tobacco cause a 0.144% reading, you ask?

Mouth alcohol

These breath machines aren’t terribly bright.  Put simplistically, to obtain the percentage of alcohol in the blood they are basically programmed to multiply the amount by 2100 times (called the partition ratio) to get the equivalent amount in the blood.  This is because the alcohol in the lung air (called  alveolar air) has been greatly attenuated in the process of being transferred from the blood into the lungs.  In other words, the machine is programmed to assume that the sample being tested is alveolar air.  If the alcohol has not passed through the body and into the lungs, however, but is still in the mouth, the machine is multiplying the alcohol 2100 times when it should not be multiplying it at all.  And it only takes a microscopic amount of alcohol to get a high reading if it’s being multiplied 2100 times.

And even if the chewing tobacco didn’t contain whiskey, guess what absorbs alcohol when it’s consumed and stays inside the cheek, gums and teeth?   This, of course, is one of the reasons why cops are instructed to make sure there are no “foreign objects” in the suspect’s mouth before breathing into the machine (something that, in real practice, they rarely do — any more than you would inspect the inside of a stranger’s mouth).

For a further discussion, see my earlier posts, “The Mouth Alcohol Problem” and “What About Mouth Alcohol Detectors?”. 

Bush an “Inadmissible Person”

How serious is a DUI conviction? Well, among other things, it can get you barred from entering some countries, including our neighbor to the north….. as President Bush discovered.

Under Canada’s laws (Section 19(2)(a.1) of the Immigration Act), anyone who has been convicted of drunk driving is a member of an “Inadmissible Class” and his entry into the country would be a criminal and deportable offense. Period. This is a lifetime ban: President Bush’s 1976 conviction in Kennebunkport, Maine, would render him personna non grata. Same for Vice-President Cheney’s two DUIs in Wyoming.

However, Canadian law permits a person with a DUI on his record to be admitted into Canada if he has been successfully “rehabilitated”. This requires applying for, and being granted, a “Minister’s Permit of Rehabilitation” from the government — but not until five years after all of the terms of the sentence have been completed (if there is a three-year probation, as is common, then it will take at least eight years). The government reviews the application, along with accompanying evidence, and applies a “rehab checklist” in deciding whether the individual has truly rehabilitated himself and should be permited to enter the country. This checklist includes evidence of genuine remorse, acceptance of responsibility, change in lifestyle, and stability in employment and family life.

As for President Bush’s little problem some time ago when he wanted to meet with the Prime Minister, the Canadian government decided to bypass all of this and simply granted him a special “pardon” permitting this unrehabilitated drunk driver into the country….for a limited period of time.