October 05, 2003

Supply and demand

This sounds dangerous -- Iranian pharmacists can sell 20 oz. bottles of nearly pure alcohol for medicinal purposes -- and Iranians are, if the story is accurate, buying them by the boxload, in some cases, to use for decidedly non-medicinal purposes. The article notes,

"Most buyers just mix the alcohol with fruit juice or Coca-Cola," explained a Tehran pharmacist, who asked to remain anonymous.

Some ardent consumers, however, point out that better results are gained when the liquid is mixed and left to blend for some time, thereby ensuring a good mix and less of a headache the following morning.

Make mine a double, and put a pickled onion in it, just to make it look like a respectable drink...

The advent of the pharmalcohol has caused some consternation among consumers (and no doubt purveyors) of adult beverages:

The availabilty of the transparent alcohol -- which bears no health warning -- has set the rumour mills going, with some people asserting that Iranian authorities were deliberately allowing its sale in order to kill off the illegal trade in imported bottles of whisky, gin and vodka.

...something that the government denies...

This sparked the health ministry to announce in the local press that the alcohol has been made "solely for medical purposes" -- such as sterilising needles for insulin-injecting diabetics.

A bottle of the pharmalcohol costs about 25,000 rials the story informs us, or about $3 -- which is roughly what a can of beer costs (hey! I've spent twice that for a beer in some D.C.-area watering holes!). The story also notes another reason for the recent popularity of pharmalcohol:

Much of the illegal alcohol that finds its way into Iran comes from Iraqi Kurdistan, and the US invasion of Iraq -- during which Iran's borders were heavily reinforced -- saw illegal alcohol prices sky-rocket.

Yet another reason for regarding the Kurds with a certain fondness...

The authorities have started cracking down on the authorities, putting some out of business who have been selling bottles of pharmalcohol without the necessary prescriptions:

...if anyone will be breathing a sigh of relief, it will be the Islamic republic's network of alcohol traders -- some of whom are privately complaining that sales are down since the pharmacies weighed in on their illicit business.

All of which gives us a good lesson in the economic principle of supply and demand, and price, of course.

I should note that I feel a little sheepish about posting this, and apologize for my flip tone -- my sympathies are with the Iranian people, and I do worry about the potential harm that consuming nearly pure alcohol -- mixed with soda or left overnight diluted with fruit juice -- can cause. I'd much rather they had access to a fine wine or a good beer. If I weren't so tired, I'd have tried to aim my flip comments at the government that insists on infantisizing those it oppresses.

(Via KurdMedia.com.)

Posted by Ideofact at October 5, 2003 01:16 AM

Another source of alcoholic beverages in Iran (or so I understand) is illegal sale of the wine that Christians and Jews are allowed to make for their own use.

Posted by: Jonathan Edelstein at October 7, 2003 10:51 PM

Somehow that seems oddly appropriate...

Posted by: Bill at October 10, 2003 01:04 AM