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What is 'vodka eyeballing'?

London's Daily Mail is reporting a dangerous new trend at colleges worldwide — but other commentators say it's nothing more than "scare journalism"

Daily Mail's Barbara Davies is quite alarmed by "vodka eyeballing" — the practice of "drinking" vodka by pouring the liquor directly into the eye — which she calls a disturbing new trend "sweeping" through college campuses in Britain and the U.S. While the article is getting plenty of attention from worried parents, there's a dearth of proof that "vodka eyeballing" has actually taken off. What's all the fuss about? (Watch an example of "vodka eyeballing")

How does "vodka eyeballing" work?According to Davies, devotees claim that pouring vodka into the eye "induces feelings of drunkenness at break-neck speeds" by passing through the mucous membranes and into the bloodstream. Their theory is flawed, says Professor Robin Touquet, a consultant in emergency medicine at a London hospital who's quoted in the piece: "At 40 percent pure ethanol, vodka in the eye would create inflammation... such that very little alcohol would be absorbed."

Doesn't it... hurt?Naturally, yes. However, say participants, "pain is part of the competitiveness."

Can it cause long term damage?Yes, say doctors. "Vodka poured into the eyeball may well leave the eye with decreased sight... [and can cause] burning, inflammation, and scarring of the cornea and sclera," says Ramona Bates, MD at EMaxHealth.

Is "eyeballing" a legitimate trend?Daily Mail claims a YouTube search turns up 800 clips of youngsters pouring vodka into their eyes. A search for "vodka eyeball" now shows only 94 clips, some dating back to 2006. There's also a Facebook page — with a grand total of 72 "fans" devoted to the stunt.

Still, 94 YouTube videos — does that mean "eyeballing" is a real problem?Gawker points out that a YouTube search for "Punching yourself in the face" shows 722 clips. "Expect our trend piece... soon," says Gawker's Ravi Somaiya. "'Young People Punching Themselves in the Face for Cheap Thrills.' No, in fact: 'Your Kids Are Punching Themselves in the Face RIGHT NOW.'"

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