Breathalyzer: For entertainment purposes?

Ontario-based Ladybug Teknologies is distributing the SipSmart breath screening device, which could be coming to a bar near you.

The idea is that bar patrons could use the device, which is described in an NPR story as about the size of an ATM machine, to test their blood alcohol levels (and presumably their legal ability to drive a car) before hitting the road. It works like this: you feed $5 into the machine, and it supplies you with a disposable plastic mouthpiece to use. You blow into the SipSmart according to instructions, and it kicks out your blood alcohol reading and coupon for a taxi cab company.

One of the bar patrons quoted in the story said it’s nifty because most people have no idea what it feels like when they’ve reached their legal limit of “safe to drive.” That’s a great idea, from a self-awareness standpoint.

But for practical purposes, it may not be all that … well, practical. According to the reporter, older and presumably more responsible drinkers aren’t all that interested in the device because they’re either embarrassed to use it, or simply don’t want to know.

Bar owners aren’t nutty about it because, according to the story, if a customer knows that he’s had “enough” he’s going to stop drinking, which affects a publican’s bottom line.

And some of the younger users are having some fun with it, which in theory could boost sales — those crazy kids are using it for betting or competitive purposes, to see who could get the machine to give the highest reading.

So that made me wonder — could the SipSmart create a liability for a tavern owner before a patron ever leaves the building and creates a hazard on the roads? Let us know what you think.

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