- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 5, 2003

TEHRAN (Agence France-Presse) — The small plastic bottles of 96 percent alcohol on sale in many Iranian pharmacies are officially for medical use only.

But pharmacists have been doing roaring trade, leading law enforcement officials in the Islamic Republic to investigate.

“A lot of people have been coming to buy this alcohol,” one store owner said, noting that the 20 oz. bottles require prescriptions — unsurprising, as alcohol consumption is strictly prohibited in Iran.

But, in practice, many shops have been selling them with few questions asked, as well as discreetly placing the bottles in plastic bags so that customers can avoid police detection.

Some pharmacies even sell them by the carton, a buyer said.

And for behind-closed-door drinkers ready to risk fines, imprisonment or lashes, the bottles are bargain. At about $3 each, they are far cheaper than imported beverages bought from smugglers, who sell one can of beer for roughly that price.

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

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