The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gave the Food and Drug Administration power to regulate the tobacco industry. One of the features of the new act was to ban flavored cigarettes such as strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, clove and other flavorings that lure children to experiment with the flavors. Every day 3,600 children and teens start smoking and many young teens viewed flavored cigarettes, like the Camel Exotic Blends shown on the left, as safer than traditional cigarettes because of the taste. Most youth don’t understand the harmful health effects caused by smoking or that nicotine is addictive, no matter what the flavor.
On Wednesday a ruling by the World Trade Organization said the 2009 law violated global trade rules by banning flavored cigarettes, but not menthol, which they felt favored U.S. cigarette producers. Indonesia’s loss of the clove cigarette market, valued at nearly $16 million a year, prompted them to challenge the law stating it discriminated against them. Indonesia leads the world in producing clove cigarettes.
The U.S. could comply with the WTO ruling numerous ways. It could ignore a ruling by the organization which many believe is interference in U.S. public health efforts to reduce teen smoking. If the U.S. ignores the ruling, Indonesia could retaliate on U.S. exports for the amount it lost in trade. The U.S. could offer Indonesia new trade concessions without changing the current tobacco law. Or the U.S. could include menthol cigarettes in its ban of flavored tobacco products, which would resolve the ruling.
Clove cigarettes may have been banned, but clove cigars which are filtered and have the look, feel and smell of clove cigarettes are still being sold in the U.S. Their cigar packaging looks like their cigarette packs, and are one of the most popular tobacco products sold at convenience stores. Clove tobacco products are still easily available to teens.
The WTO is about trade between counties. Obeying the ruling means the U.S. allows an organization outside of the country to determine our laws. They do not care about laws written to protect the environment or public health. The WTO has no investment in the future health of our teens. For now, the ban stands.