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Dr. Abdul Mabud, director of the scientific services division of the U.S. Department of Treasury^BENT^0027^EENT^s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, holds up a bottle of snake liquor from east Asia at a laboratory, in Beltsville, Md.
Photos by Charles Dharapak/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 12/9/2012
This is no accident: It's the result of a trade agreement that compels Chile and Peru, in exchange for the Pisco rule, to make sure any bourbon sold there is from the U.S. and meets this country's standards.
The U.S. is the only nation with an alcohol regulator based in its Treasury Department. Treasury was the federal government's monitor of products seen as sinful or illicit even before Prohibition began in 1919.
When the government first tried to crack down on cocaine and heroin in 1914, it did so by enacting steep taxes. For a time, marijuana also was controlled by imposing taxes so high, it was hoped, that people might lose interest.
After Prohibition was repealed in 1933, the government tried to keep a handle on the alcohol industry by writing production standards for alcohol directly into the tax code. That's where wine's alcohol content is limited to 24 percent.
The government uses taxes to control social phenomena, explains Bill Foster, who ran the bureau's headquarters before retiring this summer.
"Tobacco and alcohol are two of those commodities," Foster says.