What Are Kretek Clove Cigarettes?

Updated July 19, 2017

Kretek cigarettes are Indonesian tobacco cigarettes that include ground, dried cloves or clove flavouring. Named for the popping sound that is made by the burning cloves, these cigarettes are usually cheaper in Indonesia than "white," or traditional cigarettes. Kretek cigarettes are also a large part of the Indonesian economy, with one large manufacturer employing over 40,000 people.


The clove cigarette originated on Java, in Indonesia in the late 1800s. Originally sold as a pharmaceutical to relieve asthma, kretek cigarettes remain the most popular type of cigarette in Indonesia today. Clove cigarette manufacturers currently control 93 per cent of the market.


Many clove cigarette manufacturers use propriety tobacco and clove blends in their cigarettes, but most blends consist of 1/3 minced dried cloves and 2/3 tobacco. Flavourings ranging from cherry to menthol are also added to create flavoured clove cigarettes.

Health effects

Several studies have found that clove cigarettes sold in European markets are no better or worse than normal cigarettes. However European Union member countries have controls on the amount of nicotine and tar that can be included in an individual cigarette. Kretek cigarettes available in Indonesia and other markets, such as Canada, may have much higher amounts of nicotine and tar than traditional cigarettes.

Banned in the U.S.

In 2009 U.S. president Barack Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act into law, giving the Food and Drug Administration regulatory power over tobacco products, and banning the use of any characterising flavour, other than menthol, in cigarettes. Since kretek cigarettes are clove flavoured, they are included in the ban. However, some kretek importers have begun producing clove-flavoured cigarellos, or little cigars, that circumvent the flavoured cigarette ban. These cigarellos use the same tobacco and clove blends as their cigarettes, but use a tobacco-based paper to classify them as cigars.

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About the Author

Michael Belcher has been a public relations professional since 2008 working for university groups and volunteer groups. He has a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Murray State University and is in Dublin, Ireland to finish a Master of Science in mass communications.