The FDA ban on clove cigarettes: fair or not?

Indonesians like to have a fag. And who can blame them? When I once suggested to a spluttering chain-smoking bajaj driver that he’d probably feel a lot better if he gave up, he curtly told me that smoking was one of the few pleasures in his life (sex must have been one of the others, I assume, as he had to support a wife and 7 kids on his meager income).

And Indonesians don’t mess about with wimpy low tar “mild” cigarettes either. For this is the land of high tar kretek cigarettes. A blend of tobacco, dried cloves and a special sauce, these fags are loved by Indonesians for their characteristically sweet taste.

But they are also killing them. And in huge numbers. According to one estimate, Indonesia has 53,175,006 smokers, or more than any other country except the US, China and India. Of this number, half will eventually die from smoking related diseases – or an incredible 27 million smokers! Thank God Indonesia has a large population.

But unlike in Indonesia, many Western countries are trying hard to clamp down on smoking.

And in America they’ve gone the whole hog and completely banned kretek cigarettes.

According to the
new US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) act which came into effect on 1 October 2009:

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.

But is this really fair?

Well I don’t think so.

Yeah smoking is stupid but the bottom line is that people should be allowed to make personal choices – even if they are not good for them.

And why only ban kretek cigarettes? After all, if the US really wanted to be consistent and fair then shouldn’t it ban ALL types of cigarettes?

But we all know why that isn’t gonna happen of course. After all, would you expect US politicians to make things tough for a company like
Phillip Morris after they had received $3.9 million in bribes lobbying money in the second quarter of 2009 alone?

And the hypocrisy doesn’t end there of course.

Cos US cig giants have been expanding aggressively in Asia in recent years, and a few years back America’s Phillip Morris took over giant clove cigarette producer HM Sampoerna in a deal worth around US$5 billion.

Yeah it’s one rule for one and one for the other. But you don’t need me to tell you that. Just look at the two cigarette packs below and decide which one comes from Indonesia and which one comes from America! Easy ain’t it?!

Yes lives do matter. But only in certain countries.


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