2 Major Breathalyzer Test Myths & What You Should Know

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If you are pulled over by a police officer for driving under the influence of alcohol or driving while intoxicated, then you will likely need to take a breathalyzer test so your blood alcohol concentration can be determined. If you refuse to take the test, then your license will likely be suspended. Some people will decide to go through with the breathalyzer but think they can trick the device into giving a false reading. There are many myths about how a breathalyzer can be tricked. Keep reading to learn about a few so you are well aware of what you are doing when you decide to use the device.

Myth: Mints Can Help Mask Alcohol

Some people believe that a mint placed in the mouth or some mouthwash used before a breathalyzer will help to reduce BAC. However, this is not true. Mint is often placed in mouth lozenges and mouthwashes to overpower or mask odors released from the mouth. While a mint may mask the odor of alcohol, it may actually increase the BAC reading. Many mouth refreshing products contain alcohol. This alcohol is meant to kill some of the bacteria in the mouth that cause foul odors to occur, and it can register as consumed alcohol when using a breathalyzer.

Mints and mouthwashes do not help to change a breathalyzer test in general because of the way the device works. A breathalyzer tests the amount of alcohol that is released from your lungs. As alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream, the alcohol flows through the small capillaries in the lungs. Some of the alcohol leaves the blood and crosses through the alveoli tissue sacs. This alcohol evaporates into the air and is released from your mouth as you exhale.

The alcohol in your blood increases the more you drink, and this means that more alcohol will cross through the alveoli sacs. This translates into more alcohol released when you exhale, and the breathalyzer will measure this increased alcohol in your breath. Since you exhale directly from your lungs, you cannot reduce the amount of alcohol in your breath.

Myth: Your BAC May Be Lower If You Smoke

If you are a smoker, then you may think that the breathalyzer test may produce a lower BAC result. This seems like it would be true since smoking reduces lung capacity and causes damage to the alveoli. In reality, alcohol will still pass through the alveoli that are undamaged. The volume of air released from your lungs may be lower than a non-smoker. However, the alcohol content of the air you do exhale will be the same. 

Some people also believe that an organic compound produced in the lungs, called acetaldehyde will interfere with the breathalyzer test. This substance is a metabolic compound that occurs as alcohol is broken down in your body. Acetaldehyde will start to form in your body as you drink, and some of the compound will release from your lungs as you breathe. If you are a smoker, then more of the acetaldehyde is likely to be produced and excreted. This is caused by the reduced liver function of smokers. 

If you are a smoker, you may release more acetaldehyde when you breathe. However, most breathalyzer systems are sophisticated enough that they will not be directly affected by compounds other than alcohol that are released from the lungs.

Breathalyzer tests are often conducted during DUI or DWI stops, and some people think nothing of taking the tests because they believe they can somehow trick the machine into producing a low BAC result. This is likely not true, so make sure you understand the myths and facts about breathalyzers so you are prepared for an accurate reading when you blow into one. To learn more about breathalyzer tests, contact resources like The Law Offices of Nathan A. Steimel.