RIP Clove Cigarettes


This group of revelers is not letting the FDA get them down.

Have you tried to buy clove cigarettes lately?  If so, then you know that stores no longer carry them.  This is because clove cigarettes are now contraband — outlawed and banned (and now cooler than ever).

How did this happen?  This past June, President Obama signed into law the “Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act” (the “Act”).  This law gives the FDA broad authority to regulate the manufacture and marketing of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.  It is the first time that the agency has been given power to regulate these items.  Under the statute, the FDA can order the removal of ingredients it considers hazardous; minimize the impact of advertising on youth; improve warning labels; and prohibit the use of such characterizations as “light” or “low tar.”

The Act intends to limit tobacco companies’ ability to market their products to minors.  So, the FDA banned candy- and fruit-flavored cigarettes.  To do this, most tobacco flavorings are now illegal — including grape, cherry, vanilla, and honey — because of their allure to kids.   Unfortunately, clove is also included on this list.  The flavor ban went into effect a few weeks ago.

This all sounds well-meaning.

But Siouxsie says, “Not so fast.”   Here is the catch — the flavor ban covers only the smallest market of flavored cigarettes.  Meanwhile, the ban gives mentholated cigarettes, the most popular flavored cigarette, a free pass.

This makes no sense.  Let’s compare cloves and menthol smokes.  With clove cigarettes (also known as kreteks) the marketing is straightforward. They are black and sooty looking.  They might as well say “I’m a cancer stick.”  The clove-smoking population is small and older.   According to a WSJ article, clove smoking totals less than a tenth of 1% of U.S. cigarette consumption.  The WSJ speculates Indonesian expatriates, world travelers, and aging body-pierces comprise this tiny population.  Siouxsie would add to that list — Goths, college professors, and the hooligans pictured above.  Clove cigarettes are not produced or manufactured here; they are imported from Indonesia.

Menthols, on the flip side, form a substantial part of revenue for U.S. tobacco companies.  As reported by the WSJ, U.S. tobacco companies sell an estimated 90 billion menthol cigarettes each year.  They are, by far, the most popular flavored cigarette; and are increasing in popularity among U.S. teens, with younger smokers likely to choose a menthol brand.  And studies show that they are worse for you.  Mentholated cigarettes are more addictive and harder to quit than non-mentholated cigarettes and have more adverse health effects than non-mentholated cigarettes.  They also have a greater health impact on African-Americans (more than 75% of African-American smokers smoke mentholated cigarettes as compared with 23% of white smokers).

Here is how tobacco giant, RJ Reynolds describes the impact of its new menthol cigarettes on their overall sales during the recession:

Camel’s latest cigarette innovation Camel Crush has delivered consistently good results since its national introduction a year ago. Consumers like Crush because it gives them the choice of regular or menthol with each cigarette. In the third quarter, R. J. Reynolds expanded the use of its capsule technology to enhance Camel’s performance in the growing menthol category. This technology now gives Camels two core menthol styles a unique point of difference. It offers adult smokers the option of adding more menthol flavor to each cigarette at any time. Camel is the only brand to offer this choice.  These types of innovations and the brands’ intensified focus have kept Camel cigarettes stable despite a tough environment.

Reynolds American Inc. Q.2 2009 Earnings Report (emphasis added by Siouxsie).

Menthols are the most important new market to big tobacco.  And yet, Congress completely let the manufacturers of mentholated cigarettes off the hook.  The WSJ states that Congress did so because they feared “bootlegging.”  Bogus.  This loophole in the ban makes no sense.  Special interests win again.  Congrats to Congress, you are effectively regulating tiny tobacco.

So what is to become of cloves.  Tiny tobacco is continuing to fight for your right to smoke cloves.  One importer of clove cigarettes is trying to get around the ban by selling small clove cigars (as a replacement for clove cigarettes).  The FDA immediately responded to this move by what amounts to cease-and-desist warning to the importer.  So now, the company seeks a “cigar-is-not-a-cigarette” declaratory judgment.  If this fails, people speculate that Indonesia will file a complaint against the United States with the World Trade Organization.  In Siouxsie’s opinion, these are long shots.

So for now, it looks like clove cigarettes have gone the way of the Batcave.  Smoke ’em if you ‘ve got ’em.


~ by siouxsielaw on November 12, 2009.

9 Responses to “RIP Clove Cigarettes”

  1. RIP cloves. i will miss them terribly!

  2. Thanks for sharing this link with me via Twitter (@MotivelessCrime). I was shocked last night when I ordered a simple clove cigarette at a cigar/wine bar and was met with a rather accusatory look from a pale and skinny imitation of Twiggy (our waitress). Then she offered up a clove cigarillo but returned later to explain that those too had been banned. Big brother doesn’t want us hipsters to smoke anything other than those horrid and flavorless cigarettes they deem worthy. I can only hope that the WTO will grow some balls over this issue.

    PS Great article! Very well written and informative. Thanks!

  3. Stumbled across this today. GRR!!!

  4. People BEWARE!!!! The fact that hardly anyone knew about this prior, indicates big government taking away more freedoms under the guise of it being in the ‘best interest for the people’. That is not freedom people! That is not government minding their own business…that is the government being IN YOUR BUSINESS All The Time! And just wait and heed my words…this is only the beginning against the assault on tobacco companies. It’s been gearing up for years. The group and their propaganda campaign. They want healthcare reform…sure…they say they want it cheaper? Then others end up paying more to cover the ‘have-nots’ … and well…why would someone want to pay more because someone else participated in behaviors which could comprimise their health. Seee where I’m going with this? Even my insurance company has some new “Wellness Program”, and they were offering $200 towards your deductible if you joined. Sounds suspicious?? You bet. They were asking questions like: how much you made, how many lived in your house, do you smoke–have you EVER?, if this was offered would you be interested, how often do you do this-that-and the other. Sound nebulous? Think again. You would then be in a huge database and who knows how and where that info will pop up later…perhaps resulting in higher charges etc?

    WAKE UP PEOPLE!!! We are quickly and quietly losing more freedoms- literally EACH DAY! They want no one citizen to be able to ‘fly below the radar’…watch how that is playing out…cameras everywhere, surveillance, new restrictive laws without a public vote, possible toll roads which log your car’s travels and bill accordingly. BAD and SCARY times.

  5. These are not conspiratorial ideas…these are coming to fruition! Imagine how things were just 10-15 years ago. It was a vastly different scenario. But with the advancements in technology, we are seeing gov’t, the law etc…utilizing things under the premise that it helps people. Sure, many of these things have good points – but so did fision. Smoking is not good right? So of course then making smoking illegal would just benefit all the people! Former smokers would be saving money – by force. Former smokers would be healthier – by force. Former smokers would not be bothering or hurting others – by force. Who can really argue that smoking is good for you? Bamboozled!

    This kind of thinking has gotten many a country and people in trouble. When one puts ALL of the puzzle pieces together – it paints a very scary and troubling picture. We all think…’oh, that would never happen’.
    Did we think 10-15 years ago that every single peson would have a phone glued to their ear–even little kids? Oh yes…it’s for the parents to feel safer for little Billy. And even though brain cancer has increased greatly, now everyone is addicted to it…so no one really wants to believe that, because that would mean changing, or saying ‘no’ to the kindergartner who wants his own phone too cause his friend Billy has one!

  6. […] wouldn’t want some of these?  Cloves were cool before, but now they are contraband.  Getting these is equivalent to getting a cigar from Cuba.  And Absinthe . . . you can’t […]

  7. […] Siouxsie noted back in November, Indonesia has a point.  The ban on clove-flavored cigarettes, and the menthol […]

  8. Has anyone tried these new vapor cigarettes with Djarum flavor? Specifically, I wanted to know if these smokeless Djarum Blacks are any good and like the real thing. I’ve been a fan of cloves since high school, these new smokeless cigarettes look pretty cool. Are Djarums really banned in the US, BTW?!?

  9. last week I buy 4 cartons of Djarum Black at and I don’t have problem in shipping. besides the cheap, you will given the tracking number to track the status of your package. and I took 5 days for delivery

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