There are a lot of rumors about how gum may affect breathalyzer test results. Some people think chewing it before providing a breath test will help cover the odor of the alcohol, helping to lower their BAC. Others believe that the artificial sugars in gum contain alcohol and will, therefore, cause them to appear drunk, even if they are totally sober. So what’s the truth? Here’s what science has to say about whether gum can cause you to get a DUI or beat the charges.
Does Gum Contain Alcohol?
Sugar-free gum does contain up to 75% polyol, a type of alcohol sometimes called “sugar alcohol.” However, this type of alcohol is not the same as the ethanol found in wine, beer, and spirits. Breathalyzers test for ethanol, and while some chemicals (like acetaldehyde and acetone) can be mistaken for ethanol and cause the results to be artificially high, polyols cannot.
Can Gum Make You Fail a Breathalyzer?
No. Because the polyols found in gum are not the same as the ethanol found in liquor, research confirms they will not cause your BAC to appear artificially high on a breath test.
Does Gum Help With the Breathalyzer?
Possibly, but not in the way that most people assume. Hiding the smell of alcohol with flavored gum won’t hide the alcohol vapors deep in your lungs. If you’re drunk, chewing gum isn’t going to magically lower your blood alcohol content. However, gum can help you salivate more, which could potentially help you swallow any alcohol trapped in your mouth. Since mouth alcohol can sometimes artificially inflate BAC levels, this could potentially help lower your breathalyzer result.
Can You Chew Gum Before the Breath Test?
Not in the 15 minutes leading up to the administration of the breathalyzer. Police are supposed to monitor DUI suspects for 15 minutes before administering a breath test to make sure they do not regurgitate, vomit, or belch, as these activities can cause alcohol to enter the mouth from the digestive system and cause the breathalyzer results to be artificially high. Officers are unlikely to allow a suspect to chew gum during this period.
Chewing gum before this 15-minute period would be pointless, as most people naturally salivate enough to rinse mouth alcohol into their digestive tract. If, however, you suffer from dry mouth, wear dentures, or have deep pockets in your gums due to gingivitis, it is possible the mouth alcohol would not be flushed away during the officer observation period. In this case, chewing gum beforehand could help you with the breath test. Be wary of chewing gum, especially mint-flavored gum, when a police officer pulls you over as they may suspect you were doing so to hide the smell of alcohol on your breath.
If you have been accused of driving under the influence or have more questions about how gum can affect your breath test results, please call Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free consultation.