UPDATE — Clove Cigarettes Ban Under Investigation
The Associated Press reports that the ban by the United States on clove cigarettes in now under formal investigation by the World Trade Organization. Indonesia claims that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s ban on flavored tobacco breaks trade rules because it exempts menthol cigarettes, most of which are made in the United States.
As Siouxsie noted back in November, Indonesia has a point. The ban on clove-flavored cigarettes, and the menthol exemption 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).
Not be anti-American, but Siouxsie is pulling for Indonesia. Hopefully, the WTO’s investigation will spur the U.S. rethink the ban on cloves.