An Iranian health official on Wednesday said in the past three days an unnamed new brand of illicitly distributed spirit has claimed five lives in Chabahar, a south-eastern Iranian port city, with six more victims having a very low chance of survival.
Speaking to the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) Mohammad-Mehran Aminifard, the Chancellor Iranshahr Medical Sciences University, said casualties are expected to increase if people consume the unnamed poisonous spirit.
Iran has zero-tolerance for alcohol consumption, so an official warning about the illicitly sold brand that has led to the hospitalization of at least 21 and death of five so far is not likely to be issued.
The media are also banned from openly discussing the issue. Some people do not seek medical care when they are poisoned by illicit spirit for the fear of prosecution. Consumption of alcohol is punishable by law.
Hundreds are hospitalized for alcohol poisoning every year and tens lose their lives. Consumption is so high that in 2013 the health ministry finally established self-support groups similar to Alcoholics Anonymous and then the first rehabilitation center for the treatment of alcoholism.
The Islamic Republic banned alcoholic drinks immediately after the victory of the 1979 revolution. Although Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians are allowed to produce and consume alcohol in private, the rest of the country enjoys bootleg alcohol behind closed door, sometimes at the cost of loss of life, blindness or liver failure.
In April 2019 Mostafa Tajzadeh, a former deputy interior minister and prominent politician, said the zero-tolerance policy of the government about alcohol was a failed policy and called on the government to reconsider it to stop fatalities of bootleg alcohol.