How Smoking Can Affect a Breathalyzer Test

During a traffic stop, police will rely on breathalyzer tests to determine if a driver is intoxicated or not. These tests measure drivers’ blood alcohol concentration (BAC) through their breath and can hold a lot of weight in a criminal case. However, this is assuming that an officer followed proper procedures when administering a test, and that the device function properly. It is also possible for smoking habits to also impact a DUI test.


How Breathalyzers Work

How Smoking Can Affect a Breathalyzer Testbreathalyzer is an electronic device used by law enforcement to measure the breath alcohol content of a person suspected of DUI. The subject exhales through a mouthpiece into a test chamber filled with a solution of potassium dichromate, reddish-orange in color. Alcohol in the breath reacts with the potassium dichromate, causing the solution to turn green. A photocell compares the color of the reacted mixture to the color of an unreacted mixture in a reference chamber. The difference produces an electrical current that can be converted into a quantitative value for the BAC reading.

Falsely Inflated Readings for Smokers

The problem lies in the fact that this test measures all compounds containing methyl molecules – not only recently consumed alcohol. The breathalyzer cannot distinguish acetaldehyde from alcohol. Although it is produced by the liver as a byproduct of metabolizing alcohol, acetaldehyde is also found in the lungs, and in far higher concentrations in smokers than in non-smokers. This creates a risk for smokers of an inflated breathalyzer reading, which could lead to a DUI arrest.

Maybe you had an alcoholic beverage with dinner, but you are well under the legal limit and not alcohol impaired. If you smoked a cigarette shortly before a roadside breathalyzer test, it may show a higher concentration of acetaldehyde, and consequently, a higher BAC reading.

Physical Factors and Breathalyzer Results

Breathalyzers have had plenty of criticism in recent years. Smoking is not the only physical factor in a subject that can affect their results. Examples of conditions that can affect breathalyzer BAC readings include:

  • Low glucose levels
  • Keto diet
  • Diabetes
  • Acid reflux
  • Using mouthwash
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Brewery syndrome (a condition in which the body produces alcohol after certain foods are consumed)

Penalties for DUI In Colorado

If you are convicted of DUI on a first offense, your driver’s license will be revoked for nine months. You could spend from five days to up to a year in jail. Penalties may include a fine of up to $1,000 plus court costs, up to 96 hours of community service, and alcohol education classes. More serious penalties may be imposed with a higher BAC or if you caused an accident.

How a DUI Lawyer Can Help

Studies have shown that breathalyzers cannot distinguish between alcohol and acetaldehyde. If you are a regular smoker, or even an occasional smoker inclined to light up when you have a drink, this defense may be available to help your attorney keep a DUI conviction off your record. DUI can have serious repercussions that affect your life for years.

At The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., we understand your future hangs in the balance. Attorney Timothy Bussey has more than two decades of experience as a Colorado Springs criminal defense attorney and a successful track record handling DUI cases. As a former prosecutor, he has a unique perspective from having been on both sides of a DUI trial. Our firm will fight for you throughout the entire process, with all the knowledge, skills, and resources at our disposal.

If you are facing DUI charges, call us today at (719) 475-2555 to schedule a free initial consultation.