Home > Politics > Smoking Prevention, Big Tobacco and a ban on Clove Cigarettes

Smoking Prevention, Big Tobacco and a ban on Clove Cigarettes

It is not just a rumor.  As of September 22nd, it will be illegal to sell clove cigarettes in the United States.  On June 11, 2009 the Senate passed H.R. 1256, The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, with a vote of 79-17.  The next day the House approved the same bill 307-97. (Who said bi-partisanship was dead?!?!).  On June 22 President Obama signed the bill into law.

Here are some of the things the act does:

  • Creates a tobacco control center within the FDA and gives the FDA authority to regulate the content, marketing and sale of tobacco products.
  • Requires tobacco companies and importers to reveal all product ingredients and seek FDA approval for any new tobacco products.
  • Allows the FDA to change tobacco product content and includes a ban on flavorings besides tobacco and menthol.
    • Worthy to note that the ban on flavorings applies to cigarettes only. Pipe tobacco, cigars, and the like are not included.
  • Calls for new rules to prevent sales except through direct, face-to-face exchanges between a retailer and a consumer.
  • Limits advertising that could attract young smokers.
  • Requires cigarette warning labels to cover 50 percent of the front and rear of each pack, with the word warning in capital letters.
  • Bars the use of expressions such as “light, “mild” or “low” that give the impression that a particular tobacco product poses less of a health risk.
    • It is worthy of note that the bill makes no provisions that ban the import of the banned items for personal consumption, only for “sale or distribution”, meaning that the law as it relates to the import of the items in question remains unchanged.

For the most part the regulations require tobacco companies to jump through a few more hoops and be a bit more forthcoming.  There is however one industry that will be completely shut down by this law: the clove cigarette (kretek) industry.  Once the bill goes into effect 3 months after being signed into law (September 22, 2009), it will be illegal to sell cigarettes with any flavoring other than menthol.

Djarum Blacks. A popular clove cigarette that will soon be banned under new legislation.

You can read the pertinent text of the bill below.

SPECIAL RULE FOR CIGARETTES.—Beginning 3 months after the date of enactment of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, a cigarette or any of its component parts (including the tobacco, filter, or paper) shall not contain, as a constituent (including a smoke constituent) or additive, an artificial or natural flavor (other than tobacco or menthol) or an herb or spice, including strawberry, grape, orange, clove, cinnamon, pineapple, vanilla, coconut, licorice, cocoa, chocolate, cherry, or coffee, that is a characterizing flavor of the tobacco product or tobacco smoke. Nothing in this subparagraph shall be construed to limit the Secretary’s authority to take action under this section or other sections of this Act applicable to menthol or any artificial or natural flavor, herb, or spice not specified in this subparagraph. ~Sec 907.a 1 A of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Bill

What makes this so reprehensible is the fact that the big tobacco companies have been pushing for this legislation.  While it appears to seek to curb products that would be appealing to youth, the truth of the matter is this bill is designed to block competitors of the traditional tobacco dealers.  Just look at the exception of menthols.  Why is that flavor not included?  The answer is simple: because people like Phillip Morris make way too much money to risk pissing them off.  The irony of the matter really comes out when you start looking at statistics.  Are kids using cloves and vanilla cigarettes a “gateway” to “harder” products like Marlboro Reds?  No!  Just read this analysis from Sarah Torribio.

Statistically, however, the flavor kids consider tastiest is straight-up tobacco, in the form of Marlboro brand cigarettes (produced by Philip Morris). Some 81 percent of established teen smokers consider Marlboro to be their ticket to flavor country, according to a February 12 article.

The next most popular flavor is mint, in the form of menthol cigarettes (Philip Morris produces a wide variety of menthol cigarettes, as well). A recent survey by the American Legacy Foundation turned up the following stats: Menthol cigarettes are preferred by 81 percent of black teens, 32 percent of white teens and 45 percent of Hispanic teens.

In 2007, high school students were surveyed about their smoking habits. Twenty percent of teens surveyed said they had smoked in the last month, according to the American Lung Association website.

A relatively small number of these had smoked clove cigarettes (6.8 percent of the 20 percent who had smoked) and candy-flavored bidi cigarettes (1.7 percent).

Philip Morris’ reasons for this stipulation are as clear as the numbers. Menthol cigarettes, which add up to 28 percent of cigarettes purchased in the United States, are used by a significant number of teenagers and an even more significant number of minority youths.

Thus, clove cigarettes (which represent .09 percent of all cigarettes purchased in the United States), and flavor cigarettes (which have an even smaller market share) are a red herring.

By supporting this bill, big tobacco companies like Phillip Morris and R.J. Reynolds can appear to be taking a stand against underage smoking, while suffering no ill effects to their bottom line.  In fact, this bill helps them out by reducing the competition.  While I can certainly get behind many of the other elements of the legislation, this ban on flavorings does nothing to protect children and instead limits the choices of adults.  There is no evidence this ban will improve the health or decrease the smoking rate of Americans.  What it best illustrates is how effective big corporations are at shielding their profits because of effective lobbying.  For further analysis I recommend Up in Smoke: How the Tobacco Industry Shaped the New Smoking Bill.

  1. DLS
    August 27th, 2009 at 19:50 | #1

    My God! THANK YOU for finally spelling out the provisions of this law. I have been scouring the internet looking for the delineation – cloves are banned from sales – but can I still smoke them? And you tell me: “It is worthy of note that the bill makes no provisions that ban the import of the banned items for personal consumption, only for ‘sale or distribution’, meaning that the law as it relates to the import of the items in question remains unchanged.”

    THANK YOU so much!

  2. August 27th, 2009 at 20:25 | #2

    The ban only relates to the sale of products within the United States. There is no law against possession or consumption (Better stock up!!), and there MAY be a loophole which will allow the import of such products for individual consumption.

  3. Maggie Moore
    August 31st, 2009 at 12:19 | #3

    I run a small chain of tobacco stores and am having a heck of time trying to find out any information other than the bill itself and the timeline that RJRT put out for retailers. I was told by a distributor that they cannot sell Djarum (or any other flavored cigarettes such as Camel Signatures or bidis) after September 22nd. What about any existing product in inventory? I would have assumed that the ban would have started at the manufacturing level, but there is not specific wording in the bill regarding that at all. Any direction you could give in this area would be a huge help!

  4. August 31st, 2009 at 16:48 | #4

    Maggie, I wish I could help you, but I am not certain of how enforcement and enactment of this law will occur. I would recommend you talk with your distributor.

  5. Lisa DeTournay
    August 31st, 2009 at 17:34 | #5

    I don’t know of any “kids” that smoke clove cigarettes. They are just too expensive for a young adult’s budget. The teenagers and college students that I see smoking use menthol “FLAVORED” cigarettes or Marlboros. What is happening here is a ban on the freedom of choice on what to smoke. Why not eliminate ALL tobacco products? Why not eliminate beer, as that seems to be the alcoholic “beverage of choice” with the local college kids (I live across the street from a large university in Coral Gables, FL.)

    I do hope that we “seasoned adults” will have the right to order our clove cigarettes directly from Jakarta. I also see a huge blackmarket developing all over the United States. Why not stop the sales of Red Bull, stop lobbyists from trying to legalize marijuana and take red meat off the market. I see a lot of “kids” barbequeing steaks on weekends and this can only lead to higher cholesterol counts.

    By the way, these “kids” were called out in droves to vote for Obama. If they can vote, they should be able to make other choices too.

  6. Jennifer
    September 3rd, 2009 at 21:13 | #6

    Djarum black cigarettes actually help me smoke LESS than I would if I smoked normal cigarettes, particularly menthols. I love camel crushes too but I can go through an entire pack in one evening whereas a pack of cloves will last me the whole week.

    I am extremely disappointed by this legislative move because it is statistically unsound and most of all I would almost consider the ban illegal. If certain types of alcohol (honestly nearly as harmful whether to the persons body or in the damage they cause as a result of being drunk), say for instance any that is over 35%, were banned, the uproar would be as equally widespread. This law is ludicrous and it, in my opinion, is removing a high volume of taxable commodity that the damn US government could be getting revenue from to get its ass out of the economic pig crap were in. Instead of banning them, make the import tax higher. Its really that simple.

    I had my first cigarette when I was 18 (no lie either). I was an adult and it was my choice. My choice of the freedom to smoke 3 clove cigs a day should not be the governments to make.

  7. Thomas Jefferson
    September 4th, 2009 at 00:56 | #7

    America will not stop banning things until there is a revolution. They ban everything they can think of to protect us, but when are bans ever lifted? I’m 34 years old and would like to enjoy a clove cigarette once in a while. Is that OK Mr. Obama, you sell-out? Let’s just get it over with. Let’s ban everything except food, water, shelter, and clothes. Everything else can be too dangerous. Goodbye personal liberties. Goodbye America (the America that once meant freedom)…

  8. Greedysoul
    September 4th, 2009 at 06:51 | #8

    Clove cigarettes contain much higher quality tobacco and much less chemicals than regular US-produced cigarettes. Since the tobacco in clove cigarettes is naturally strong and pure, you don’t smoke them as often. That’s probably why they are banning them, since they don’t help to sell the commercial cigarettes produced by the big US firms.

    I’ve smoked cloves occasionally for over 25 years and never had health problems and in fact I don’t have any symptoms of addiction, since I don’t smoke them in large quantities or frequently. Thus I really resent laws that prevent me from doing something I enjoy, in a responsible manner.

  9. Tam
    September 10th, 2009 at 18:11 | #9

    I agree with all of the above, and also smoke Djarum blacks (about a pack every few months) occassionally and responsibly. I am 21 and had my first cigarette when I was 19, and I don’t want to lose my chance to make that decision so quickly. I don’t care for many other cigarettes, and I really don’t think this should be allowed.

    Please, everyone who is upset about this, don’t let it become a “norm.” Call in, write in, talk to your representatives and let your voices be heard asap! I encourage all of you to speak up directly to the government. Smoking is our choice as adults, and what we smoke is as much our choice, too. http://www.house.gov/ Enter your zip code to find your representative, and talk to them before things like this become “okay.”

  10. Sashell
    September 18th, 2009 at 19:43 | #10

    A pack every few months thats fine… but these are all I smoke and have been smoking them since I was eighteen Im twenty five now like COME THE FUCK ON!!!! As ju st about everyone has said I dont kno one kid that smokes them NOT ONE!!! They are way to expensvie for minors to afford first of all and for two if they can afford them they would rather buy two packs of regular ciggs than one pack of blacks. Our government is so fucked up whats next flavored vodka going away.

  11. Benjamin Franklin
    September 29th, 2009 at 17:03 | #11

    @Thomas Jefferson
    Agreed, Mr. Jefferson, you are a true patriot. I’m glad I’m not the only one seeing this country turning into a Tyranny.

  12. Amy Farrell
    October 4th, 2009 at 15:06 | #12

    I was furious when I read in the paper that this had happened. I am a 50-year-old American woman who had never had an addiction problem in my life. I enjoy smoking a Djarum Speicial once in a while while relaxing outside in the evening or on a horseback ride in the mountains or around a campfire while camping. The most I ever smoke is one or two a week. The high quality tobacco and the sweet clove aroma and flavor is a particular joy to me and I have been doing this for years with no ill results. I am attracted to no other cigarette flavor, though out of curiosity I have tried others. Now my innocent little pleasure has been taken away from me and I am mad! Who has the right to tell me, an adult, what I may or may not consume. What is next, apricot brandy or Bailey’s Irish Cream? Because you know, those sweet alcoholic beverages might attract children! This country is becoming a Tyranny and I am sick of the Nanny-state already and it has only just begun, mark my words.

  13. November 6th, 2009 at 07:33 | #13

    I know it’s illegal for stores to SELL clove cigarettes, but is it okay to have it mailed to you for personal consumption?. The reason why i ask is because i have a friend who lives in Indonesia and he wanted to send me some clove cigarettes, i told him i wasn’t sure but i would be sure to check. I went on the FDA website and tried to check, but they give a vague overview of this law. I check the bill passed by congress and this one definition was not clear on personal consumption.

    `(8) ILLICIT TRADE- The term `illicit trade’ means any practice or conduct prohibited by law which relates to production, shipment, receipt, “possession”, distribution, sale, or purchase of tobacco products including any practice or conduct intended to facilitate such activity.

    In definition 8 it says “Possession”, so even if you have clove cigarette mailed to you for personal consumption, is that illegal?. This law so confusing.

  14. Daphnie Jones
    January 10th, 2010 at 01:18 | #14

    @Maggie Moore

    You wouldn’t happen to have any clove cigarettes in your remaining inventory, would you? I am on my last pack from when i stocked up in sept..to my understanding you can still sell what you have left, just no more of them can com into the country

  15. Daphnie Jones
    January 10th, 2010 at 01:20 | #15

    I’m with u.. i’m almost 30, I wasn’t ready to quit smoking, I don’t like any other cigs..djarum lights and bali hai were my preference

  16. January 14th, 2010 at 23:59 | #16

    Post links to congress critters email sites over this issue, senators, etc..

    Lobbies really need to die.. at least speak to that point.

  17. January 15th, 2010 at 00:22 | #17

    It ate a well thought out comment, let me just say the gov should stay the hell out of what I consume as an adult and viva the revo when it comes.

    gods help us all.

  18. DENISE
    April 1st, 2010 at 17:10 | #18

    @Maggie Moore
    please if anybody still have the special djarum email me. I WILL BUY!!

  1. September 2nd, 2009 at 11:53 | #1
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