Clove cigarettes have gained popularity in the Western world throughout the last few years. They are often viewed as a “healthier” alternative to traditional cigarettes. However, clove cigarettes are not any safer than regular cigarettes. They can have adverse effects on your health and those around you.
This article will introduce you to clove cigarettes’ health risks and compare kreteks with regular cigarettes.
What Are Clove Cigarettes?
Clove cigarettes, also known as kreteks, contain 60-70% of tobacco products (like any other cigarette you’d find), ground cloves, clove oil, and various artificial flavors and aromas. They are popular in multiple countries mainly because of two reasons:
- They are smoked in a way that may seem to be safer than cigarette smoking
- They are believed to have medicinal benefits or are perceived by the smoker as less harmful than tobacco cigarettes.
Although clove cigarettes may appear healthier, there are many chemicals contained within these cigarettes that make them dangerous to your health.
Health Risk of Clove Cigarettes
Some people are under the false impression that clove cigarettes are better. In reality, kretek cigarettes contain many of the same additives and chemicals found in regular cigarettes and pose just as many — if not more — health risks. The primary health concerns associated with smoking kreteks include:
- Hemorrhagic pulmonary edema,
- Bronchitis, and
Presence of nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide
Compared to tobacco cigarettes, clove cigarettes contain a higher concentration of the following toxins: nicotine, carbon monoxide, and tar.
In a study from 2003, it was found that a clove cigarette (Djarum Special) contained 7.4 mg of nicotine, whereas a traditional cigarette contained 13 mg of nicotine. Regardless of the amount of nicotine, a clove cigarette emitted more nicotine, carbon monoxide, and tar than a conventional cigarette.
Presence of eugenol
You may think that cloves are natural; they make cigarettes better for you than conventional cigarettes. However, cloves produce a substance called eugenol that acts as an anesthetic. This chemical is often used to numb part of a patient’s mouth before dental work.
When used in cigarettes, eugenol creates a numb sensation in the upper airways of a smoker’s lungs, throats, and tracheas, allowing them to comfortably inhale smoke much deeper into the lungs and hold the smoke longer without irritation.
Most officials agree that when young people smoke cloves, they can get hooked faster because of the anesthetic, eugenol, in the cloves,
Richard Hurt, Professor of Medicine and Director of Nicotine Dependence Center, Mayo Clinic, Minnesota (Src)
Impact on Lungs and Other Health Risks
Since nicotine and tar delivery to the lungs is more efficient with kreteks, they have been linked to several health issues. According to the American Cancer Society, clove cigarettes damage the lungs by:
- Reducing the level of oxygen,
- Filling liquid, and
- Causing inflammation.
People who smoke regular kreteks tend to have 20 times heightened risk for abnormal lung function problems than those who don’t smoke. Some clove cigarette users may experience mild side effects such as:
- Nausea and vomiting,
- Angina (Chest pain and muscles discomfort),
- Respiratory tract infections,
- Chronic bronchitis,
- An increase in asthma attacks,
- Chronic cough,
- Epistaxis (blood from the nose), and
- Dyspnea (shortness of breath).
The Legal Status of Clove Cigarettes in the U.S.
Cigarettes in the United States have long been the subject of legal restrictions, including a 2009 U.S. Senate bill to prohibit flavored cigarettes such as cinnamon, clove, strawberry, and cherry. But it didn’t include regular cigarettes with menthol and tobacco.
In 2012, the World Trade Organization said it was unfair for the United States to allow menthol and tobacco cigarettes to be sold while banning clove-flavored ones. In 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it would prioritize enforcement against e-cigarettes that appeal to kids, including fruit and mint flavors. The same year, the FDA raised the minimum age to 21 for buying cigarettes.
The phrase “healthier alternative to cigarettes” implies that you can smoke but remain healthy. While this isn’t exactly true, the word more beneficial is a misnomer. Despite what anyone tells you, Clove cigarettes are not a safe option. They contain tobacco and require burning and inhaling, which is hazardous to the lungs and other organs.
Quitting may seem next to impossible if you have a habit of smoking clove cigarettes or even tobacco products. But it does not have to be nearly as bad as you might think. With determination and perseverance, you can quit smoking no matter what kind of cigarettes you are used to.
- Malson, J. L., Lee, E. M., Murty, R., Moolchan, E. T., & Pickworth, W. B. (2003). Clove cigarette smoking: Biochemical, physiological, and subjective effects. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 74(3), 739–745. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0091-3057(02)01076-6
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Epidemiologic notes and reports illnesses possibly associated with smoking clove cigarettes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved April 28, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00000549.htm