WTO Nixes US Ban on Clove Cigarettes
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Indonesia should be allowed to export clove cigarettes to the US as long as US-manufactured menthols are still permitted, found the World Trade Organization appeals panel yesterday, upholding an earlier ruling that a US ban on clove cigarettes discriminates against Indonesia, the world's leading clove cigarette producer. The Obama administration moved to ban clove cigarettes, made of a blend of cloves, tobacco and other flavors, in 2009. It's argued that they appeal particularly to younger people—which may be true, considering that 25% of Indonesians aged between three and 15 try smoking (a massive 90% of Indonesia's population smokes clove cigarettes). But although the US has also blocked sales of flavored cigarettes like coffee, strawberry, grape and clove, it makes an exception for menthol—an exception that favors menthol cigarette-manufacturers based in the US. It's because of this that the World Trade Organization ruled the clove cigarette ban to be discriminatory. Anti-smoking groups like the Citizens' Commission to Protect the Truth argue that the trade dispute could be resolved if the US simply agreed to ban menthols. For the moment, the clove ban remains in effect, but the US must comply soon or face possible trade retaliation from Indonesia.