Important Facts About Clove Cigarettes

Think twice before lighting up this alternative

Clove cigarettes, also known as kreteks (pronounced cree-teks), are often mistakenly thought of as a safe smoking alternative to regular cigarettes, presumed to be more natural and lacking in toxic chemicals. But they are just as problematic as traditional cigarettes.

Produced in Indonesia and distributed worldwide, clove cigarettes are typically made of up of approximately 60 percent to 80 percent tobacco, and 20 percent to 40 percent ground clove buds and clove oil. Sometimes additional spices like cumin, cinnamon, and nutmeg are also added.

Usually machine-rolled, clove cigarettes come with or without filters. While kreteks do not contain the thousands of toxic chemicals that traditional cigarettes do, they are far from healthy.

Health Risks

Studies have shown that clove cigarettes deliver more nicotine, carbon monoxide, and tar than regular cigarettes, and that it takes more time and puffs on average to fully smoke a clove cigarette, leading smokers to face up to 20 times the risk of acute lung damage than nonsmokers. Acute lung damage could include increased fluid in the lungs, decreased oxygen, inflammation, and capillary leakage. Clove cigarette smokers who suffer from asthma or a respiratory infection are especially at risk.

Clove cigarette smokers face the same risk of nicotine addiction that conventional smokers do.

These cigarettes also contain eugenol, a mild antiseptic and anesthetic that naturally occurs in cloves. It is thought that the numbing feature of cloves caused by eugenol allows the kretek smoker to inhale longer and more deeply (because of this effect, eugenol is sometimes added to traditional cigarettes to numb the throat against the harshness of tobacco smoke). This can increase the risk of lung infections, respiratory illness, and allergic reactions in some smokers, especially those with existing lung sensitivities.

Clove cigarette smokers also increase their risk of heart disease and certain cancers, such as cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, and liver.

Aside from this, in large doses, cloves or clove oil can cause a variety of potentially dangerous problems, including:

  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Accelerated breathing and heartbeat
  • Sleepiness
  • Burns in the mouth or throat
  • Intestinal bleeding
  • Liver or kidney failure

Cigarettes With Training Wheels

Like bidi cigarettes, it's not uncommon for clove cigarettes to be a young person's first introduction to tobacco. Between the spiced flavor of cloves and colorful packaging, this type of cigarette is aimed directly at young smokers and is considered a "gateway" product.

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (Tobacco Control Act) of 2009 is meant to help deter kids from getting started with tobacco. Sweet flavors added to cigarettes soften the harsh taste of tobacco smoke, easing new smokers into what often becomes a lifelong struggle with nicotine addiction.

While the sale of flavored cigarettes is banned in the United States, they can still be purchased online.

A Word From Verywell

Clove cigarettes are not a safe smoking alternative. Any product that must be lit, burned, and inhaled is hazardous to delicate lung tissue and other organs in our bodies, and one that contains tobacco is even more hazardous.

There is no such thing as a safe cigarette.

If you are already smoking clove cigarettes—or any other type of cigarette—there are steps you can take to quit the habit and live a healthier life.

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