In an article published by PR Newswire Lawrence Taylor a South California attorney and author of Drunk Driving Defense, claims that smokers might get into trouble when undergoing a breath test because of incorrectly high breathalyzer tests. Studies have shown than smokers have a higher concentration of a molecule acetaldehyde than non-smokers and that molecule is sadly enough very similar to the ethanol molecule the breathalyzers look for. As a result you may end up with an incorrectly high reading when tested. Especially long-term smokers run this risk.
From other studies it transpired that there may be credence in the proposition that smoking slows down the alcohol absorption, which would result in a lower blood alcohol level that it would be with a non-smoker. According to the scientist the results of the studies have “considerable social and medicolegal relevance” when trying to determine the blood alcohol level of a smoker. Taylor quickly notes that this simply means that the machines will probably not get it right in estimating blood alcohol levels of a smoker and are therefore highly unreliable.
Source: PR Newswire 28 September
Taylor’s science based arguments that the machines are flawed are impressive. At the same time however these machines are used on a daily basis by those out in the field. What will need to happen now? A new procedure in which the officer asks about prior smoking activities, how recent, amount of cigarettes so as to ensure whether or not that may have influenced a breath test reading. And if a blood test needs to be used as an alternative, we have to consider the matter of differences in alcohol absorption between smokers and non-smokers.
How long until we see these types of arguments appear in New Zealand court rooms.
On the other han this may be a good time to consider a 0 alcohol allowance for those that are driving.