Experts warn against clove cigarettes, 27/01/12

Cigarettes flavoured to taste like clove are becoming popular among new smokers because they are tasty and do not make the throat hurt, a seminar on tobacco control was told yesterday.

The aromatic eugenol chemical compound used in the “clove cigarette” helps make the smoker’s air sacs numb, prompting them to inhale deeper and subsequently get addicted to the rush of nicotine, Dr Hathai Chitanont, director of Thailand Health Promotion Institute, said.

“Firsttime smokers do not choke while trying out a clove cigarette and inhale deeper. This is considered more dangerous and should be regulated,” he said.

The cigarettes, smuggled into Thailand from Malaysia, are widely available and at Bt20 for four cigarettes, are easily affordable by youngsters, Assoc Prof Sriratch Larpyai, a Rangsit University lecturer, said.

He explained that these cigarettes come in different flavours and some even have bits of mint candy inside them, which makes smoking a delicious experience. Also, the cigarettes are sold in attractive packaging, are smaller in size and some are even marked “slim” to attract women.

These cigarettes can be found in most of Bangkok’s night markets as well as in Pathum Thani and Nonthaburi.

Studies show that the sale of clove cigarettes is more widespread than conventional cigarettes, for which a permit is required. Originally produced in Indonesia, the clove cigarette was banned in the United States in September 2009 on grounds that it could easily get young smokers addicted. Before being banned, the clove cigarettes held a Bt1trillion market share in the US.

Indonesian manufacturers later filed a complaint against the ban and won. They had cited the imports of menthol cigarettes, which are not much different from the cloveflavoured brands, according to a relevant World Trade Organisation ruling.

Meanwhile, sale and possession of clove cigarettes violates two laws in Thailand: an excise law for which the violator will be charged Bt500 in fines as well as 50 times the excise duty and the public health law, under which they can face Bt100,000 in fines and/or six months in prison.