Just last September in the Pakistani city of Karachi, 22 men died after drinking tharra from an illegal brewery run by a police constable. And why were they drinking tharra when regular old alcohol is plenty legal in Pakistan? For the same reason any of us would have. It was the middle of the holy month of Ramadan and the liquor stores were closed.
For all of you who still think communism is evil, hear this. During the reign of communism in the Soviet Union, alcohol was one of the few things people could afford. In present day Russia, steep excise duties have put alcohol out of the price range for many working-class stiffs. We'd take communism any day, thank you very much.
To get around the pricing problem, many Russians have turned to the most horrible of options: surrogate alcohol. For those unfamiliar with the term, your liver thanks you, because surrogate alcohol refers to any number of products that have high alcohol contents but are not intended for human consumption. In Russia, in a pinch, common cleaning products will do, but the surrogate alcohol of choice is usually cologne or aftershave.
Boasting a 97 percent alcohol content that should earn it a skull and crossbones on the label, the cheap aftershaves are often bottled to resemble cheap vodka, because, you know, drinking out of an actual aftershave bottle would just be humiliating.
No one knows how widespread the whole "getting drunk off aftershave" thing is, in or out of Russia. "These are products that are often consumed by people living on the margins of society," said professor Martin McKee, head of the Department of Shit We Already Knew at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.