IRAN SPENDS GOVERNMENT MONEY ON CIGARETTES, USES OVER 2 TONS OF DRUGS DAILY

By | July 16, 2019

he Islamic Republic spent government money meant for essential medical supplies on cigarette imports, while Iranians use over two metric tons of narcotic drugs daily, Radio Farda reported.

The “official” exchange rate of the Iranian rial is subsidized by the Islamic Republic at a rate far above the open market rate, according to Al-Jazeera. The official rate is 42,000 rials to every $1 and is only used to import essential goods. The open market rate stood at about 130,000 rials per dollar in the beginning of July.Read More Related Articles

$170 million of the government-subsidized currency exchange rate was allocated for import of tobacco while another $16 million was allocated for cigarette paper, according to Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi. The subsidized rate was meant to be spent on importing essential medical supplies, according to Raisi.

“The current output of Iranian tobacco factories is around 35 to 40 billion cigarettes, but they aim to increase their output to 80 billion,” said Raisi at a ceremony marking national “No Tobacco Day.”

Iran still allows tobacco products to be advertised, even though the Iranian Judiciary has officially declared a ban on these advertisements.

Although there is a large amount of rules and legislation against tobacco use, retailers and government authorities don’t abide to them. The smoking rate is highest among Iranians between the ages of 45 to 54. About 12% of Iranian adults above the age of 15, smoke regularly.

Annual sales of cigarettes in Iran stand at $238 million, according to Radio Farda. Mohammadreza Masjedi, another Health Ministry official, said that the number of tobacco factories grew from nine to 17 between 2015 and 2017.

The head of Drug Control Headquarters (DCH), Eskandar Momeni reported to the Islamic Republic’s parliament on Sunday that Iranians use over two tons of narcotics.

Iranian Interior Minister Rahmani Fazli reported last year that 3% of the Islamic Republic’s population is addicted to drugs, mostly heroin, a relatively high percentage on an international scale, but not one of the highest. The percentage rises to 5.4% for  Iranian citizens aged 15-64, based on 2017 data.

Over 2.8 million Iranians use narcotic drugs regularly, according to Deputy Head of Iran’s presidential office for fighting narcotics Nasser Aslani.

Neighboring country Afghanistan is the largest producer of opium, meaning heroin is extremely cheap in Iran, with a gram of heroin costing less than $2 USD. In the US, the same amount can cost from $34 to $40, according to Radio Farda, while a gram of heroin sells for between about $707 to $763 in Israel, according to Mako.

67% of the Islamic Republic’s drug addicts use heroin or another form of refined opium.

Iran reported the second largest amount of heroin and morphine seized in 2017 worldwide, with Afghanistan reporting the largest amount and Pakistan reporting the third largest amount, according to the United Nations 2019 World Drug Report.

The Islamic Republic has seized about 11,000 tons of various forms of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances over the past three years, according to Iran’s Ambassador to the UN Majid Takht Ravanchi. In 2018, Iranian forces conducted 1,557 operations against drug trafficking, seizing about 807 tons of various narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

3,815 Iranian law enforcement personnel were killed and over 12,000 others were wounded while fighting drug trafficking over the past four decades, according to Ravanchi.

Opioid use disorders are the most common type of drug use disorder in Iran, with about 1.8% of Iranians aged 15-64 suffering from the disorder. Even though cannabis use disorders were reported as more prevalent in Iran than amphetamine-type stimulant use disorders, cannabis has only begun to appear as a drug of concern recently.

Iran and China accounted for 95% of methamphetamine laboratories which were dismantled in Asia the past few years, according to the World Drug Report. Asia reported the largest number of such laboratories dismantled worldwide (6% of the global total).

The use of amphetamines in Iran wasn’t common until 2005, but has become more popular since then.

70% of prisoners in Iran were sentenced for drug-related offenses, said Aslani on July 10, Radio Farda reported.

Over 53 out of one million Iranians die because of narcotic drug use, according to the World Health Organization. This is a higher rate than any other country in the region, including Afghanistan, which produces over 90% of global illicit heroin and over 95% of Europe’s illicit supply.

In Israel, the amount of deaths attributed to opioid abuse is actually declining, according to a study at Ariel University in 2018.

“Iran will not pay the cost for stopping the flow of drugs from Afghanistan to Europe if the US sanctions imposed on Tehran continue,” said the Chief of the Joint Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces on July 11. The same threat has been made multiple times by other Iranian officials.

“More than 52,000 people were arrested in the first quarter of the current Iranian calendar (beginning March 21) for narcotic drugs-related crimes,” said Aslani on Sunday, according to Radio Farda.

Radio Farda clarified that Iranian law enforcement agencies are not very accountable to the media or politicians, meaning information they disseminate is not subject to any independent review. This could lead to drug seizure numbers being exaggerated.

In January, Information and Communications Technology Minister Mohammed Azari Jahromi, announced on Twitter that the Iranian Space Research Center had found a 70 hectare opium poppy farm in agricultural lands in the country. Twitter is banned in the Islamic Republic.

“Again technology served transparency, though some don’t like it,” tweeted Jahromi.

Deputy Commander of the Islamic Republic police Ayoub Soleimani denied that such a farm existed in Iran in January, saying that if the report was true, “it meant [Iran’s] police is asleep,” Radio Farda reported.

Jahromi quickly responded to Soleimani on Twitter, writing that “The research center’s report about cultivating opium is accurate and in detail. I invited the anti-narcotics police chief to the center to check the details, and he welcomed the invitation.”

Soleimani responded again, claiming that “the wavelength of the light reflected from opium poppy is similar to the one in wild poppy; therefore the two have been confused with each other.” More