Breathalyzer Technology In California


In strange DUI news, Tostitos, yeah, the corn chips, is marketing a limited-edition “Party Safe” version of its Tostitos chip bag that …. get this: serves as a breathalyzer. Well, not really a breathalyzer but the bag contains a sensor that will detect alcohol on a person’s breath. If the sensor detects alcohol on the person’s breath, the bag’s logo design that includes a green circle will turn the circle red with a warning message “Don’t Drink and Drive.” An Uber code, which can be tapped by a smartphone to send out a driver to the location (using near-filed communication technology) will also appear on the bag. And in order to entice the drinker to call Uber instead of driving, the Uber code includes a discounted Uber ride. Gimmicky, you bet. But Tostitos (and Uber) may be on to something.

While this particular technology is rudimentary and doesn’t actually measure the blood alcohol content, as a breathalyzer does, it does detect whether there is alcohol on a person’s breath. You might surmise that the person already knows if he or she has been drinking, but this serves as a not-so-subtle reminder that maybe they shouldn’t be driving. The Tostitos bag was produced in limited quantities specifically for the Super Bowl but might this be a harbinger of things to come?

BAC sensor technology for personal use has been around for quite a while. In fact, there are devices anyone can buy that turns a smartphone into a breathalyzer. These devices, when tested side-by-side with police-grade breathalyzers, have proved to be highly accurate. With the incredible speed of new technology, it can’t be long before cheap and small, but accurate BAC sensors are developed.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more marketing campaigns similar to the Tostitos campaign where alcoholic beverage companies or snack producers team up with ride-sharing apps embedding an accurate BAC chip in a product and making it easy to order a ride. It might be a novelty at first — and that would be good because it ignites curiosity and the desire to give it a try. Eventually, this type of technology might be just an everyday thing. And hopefully there will be social pressure to check your BAC since it will be such an easy and available option.

Given the tragic number of people that are killed on our roads and highways every year by drunk drivers, this technology combined with the might of marketing campaigns could be one powerful market-driven solution to drunk driving. Drunk driving will never be completely eliminated (until we are all in driverless cars) but the Tostitos marketing gimmick just may suggest a new direction in the fight against drunk driving. By using a carrot instead of a stick and some clever marketing, many potential drunk drivers might just decide that it would be better to let someone else take the wheel.

William Weinberg has almost 25 years of experience in defending drivers charged with driving under the influence. You may consult with him about your DUI matter by contacting him at his Irvine office at 949-474-8008 or emailing him at