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What is a Kretek?

By J. Beam
Updated May 17, 2024
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A kretek, more often referred to as a clove cigarette, is a cigarette containing a specific blend of tobacco and cloves. Kretek cigarettes were developed in Indonesia in the late 1800s as a way to deliver the medicinal qualities of cloves to the lungs as this was believed to help treat asthma. Conversely, in laboratory studies, kretek cigarettes are found to contain levels of tar and nicotine as well as give off levels of carbon monoxide comparable to other full-flavor cigarettes, deeming them as hazardous to your heath as other types of cigarettes.

In visual appearance, a kretek looks similar to a plain tobacco cigarette, although sometimes they are rolled in black rather than white paper. Kretek cigarettes may be filtered or non-filtered. The distinguishable characteristic of a kretek is the aroma. Cloves have a distinguishable spicy, almost sweet scent to them and a burning kretek smells much like incense. Similarly, a kretek has a different flavor than traditional tobacco cigarettes because of the cloves.

Though research has shown that kreteks are considered to have the same health risks as other cigarettes, people who smoke cloves may experience additional side effects caused by the spice. Cloves have shown to irritate some people’s gastrointestinal systems and other people have displayed allergies to both the smell and ingestion of cloves.

While kretek cigarettes remain popular in the East as well as other parts of the world, in the United States there has been much debate about the sale of clove cigarettes. The primary concern surrounding the sale of kretek cigarettes is their aroma and flavor may appeal to younger, underage individuals as well as the school of thought that because they contain cloves, people are attracted to the thought of an herbal cigarette. Though the creation of a federal law outlawing the sale of kreteks has been discussed, there are no laws on the books to date. However, due to their seemingly enticing characteristics, the sale of kreteks is banned within some states including Maryland, Utah, and New Mexico.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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