Suck a Penny


Have you heard this one? Suck on a penny when you’re pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence and when law enforcement administers the breathalyzer, and the reading for your blood alcohol content will be ridiculously high. The reading will be so high, in fact, that the suspect can later claim that the breathalyzer machine was flawed.

Rumor has it that successful use of this DUI cheat is what caused the U.S. mint to change pennies from all copper to mostly zinc in 1982. Rumor is all it is. The change in 1982 was the result of the government saving $25 million annually in metal costs. Does the trick work? No. The air exhaled into breathalyzers comes from the base of the lungs and is called alveolar air. The copper located in the mouth would not affect the alcohol content found in the alveolar air. This was confirmed by Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters. In a 2003 episode, the hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman tested this trick and busted it. The pennies had no effect on the breathalyzer. Moreover, officers are supposed to observe people suspected of driving under the influence for 15 – 20 minutes prior to conducting a breathalyzer to ensure that the suspect has not ingested anything that may affect the results, or in this case, store Honest Abe in their cheeks.

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One Response to Suck a Penny

  1. Charles Rathburn says:

    Great article Larry. The only thing one can put in one’s mouth to potentially reduce a breath test result is to rinse one’s mouth with clean water and spit it out a couple times. The could reduce the affects of mouth alcohol and reduce a number on a PAS or other preliminary breath testing device. Other than that, anything put in the mouth will potentially increase the numeric estimations of those devices.

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