So, I may have smoked my last clove cigarette, and not even known it? How did THAT happen?

Honestly, that’s not completely true…but the clock is at three months and ticking, thanks to the recently passed Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act:

“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.”

Nice job, Philip Morris. Note a couple of things here. 1) I kept a certain level of attention on this legislation, and I was aware that packaging rules were being severely changed, the FDA was being given new powers, etc.

But I had NO clue that clove (and most other flavored cigarettes) were being permanently banned. There doesn’t seem to be much (domestic – more on this later) news talking about this; the focus is on the other aspects of the bill. Admittedly, I’m not a big clove smoker by any means…on the order of a handful a month, at most. But I checked around, and people I thought would be aware, aren’t. This may not have been stealth legislation, but it certainly wasn’t highlighted.

And 2)…note the exemption. Menthol. The flavoring ban is “for the children”, of course…but exempting menthol is a pretty big hole in that, unless you’re simply trying to get Philip Morris to drop their objections. Which Congress was, and Philip Morris did. Gak.

While the flavoring ban has flown under our radar, Indonesia, OTOH, is more than a little pissed. Cloves are a fairly niche product in the US, but there are a lot of fans, both native-borne and immigrants (these cigarettes, known generally as kreteks, are of Indonesian origin). Jakarta is threatening WTO action based on the menthol exemption (favoring a domestic product over an import).

That could be a monkey wrench for the ban, but who knows how far that will go. The only thing more confusing and uglier under the covers than domestic law-making is international legal action.

I could just stop being naive, and accept that this is the way the world works (which is, to a certain extent, absolutely true). But in the spirit of Shaw’s unreasonable man quote, you have to stand up at times for progress to occur. This is one of those times. This law, as passed, is really just execrable.

We’ve banned flavored cigarettes, arguably (one might say) as a first step to banning them all. Except we’ve exempted the largest domestic flavoring, and there’s not even a hint of banning tobacco PRODUCTION. But why would we continue to grow a crop we can’t sell?? Because we’re selling it abroad. A crop too dangerous to sell here is returning to it’s former status as a premier cash crop for export. That’s low. That’s truly low.

For more background on the bill (and the previous one in 2004, which seems to have been “Part 1”), this article is well worth reading: “Lost In The Weed“.

What do we do? The damn thing’s already passed, so I don’t know. But we certainly don’t have to be quiet about it, and maybe, just maybe, a little sunlight can still make a difference.

3 thoughts on “Tobacco: death by 1000 cuts, or export-only cash crop FTW?

  1. I agree. I had not idea this was going on. I find myself looking on the net trying to find out how I can make clove tobacco myself. I find nothing. I am so angry. This is wrong. You wrote a fine article Ken Kennedy.

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