Around 1880s, the first clove cigarette was invented by a man from a small village in Indonesia, he rolled a clove cigarette by combining tobaccos, cloves and spices, when inhaled it eased his asthma, soothed his lungs and helped him breathe easily. From that moment, million Indonesian people believe that Kretek or clove cigarettes will reduce the sore throat and asthma. In 1990 several companies in Indonesia start to commercialize the clove cigarettes. Since then Indonesia become the world's largest producer of clove cigarettes, exporting about US$500 million worth of the clove cigarettes a year.
Clove cigarette produce crackling noise (Kretek, tek, tek...) and hence the name "kretek" derived from this characteristic. Rokok Kretek is the phrase use by Indonesian, Rokok is cigarette, kretek is clove flavored, so rokok kretek literally means clove flavored cigarette. Clove cigarettes generally contain 60% to 80% tobacco, 20% to 40% ground clove and some mixture of special sauces. The scented spice of clove is what essentially boosts the flavor of these cigarettes and is responsible for the distinct smoking experience that is usually associated with these cigarettes. Each manufacturer develop their own sauce from secret blend that makes up the distinct flavor of each brands, manufacturing them become a complex process cause a single brand may use up to 40 types of tobaccos to achieve the perfection. Therefore it is very different from regular cigarettes, clove cigarettes typically take longer to smoke than the regular cigarette.
The United States began importing clove cigarettes in the 1960s. Applied taxes and many other added charges make the clove cigarettes quite expensive comparing the regular cigarettes. However many smokers like the aroma and taste of combined tobacco clove cigarettes, resulted about one fifth of Indonesia clove cigarettes export goes to the United States.
Djarum Black emerge as the most popular brand of clove cigarette in the world. This black paper kretek cigarette is the favorites among clove cigarettes smokers. Gudang Garam, Sampoerna A Mild and Dji Sam Soe is also very popular and known to have their own flavor. These brands of cigarettes are internationally recognized and most tobacco stores around the world have these brands in stores.
In September 2009, flavored cigarettes such as clove, strawberry, cherry or cinnamon are banned from production and sale in the U.S. except for Menthol cigarettes. This regulation is claim as part of a national effort to reduce teen smoking, where studies shown that many teens are more incline to smoke flavor based cigarettes and get addicted by it. Since then, kreteks are prohibited for being sold or distributed by anyone inside the United States. Smokers are forced to go back smoking regular non-clove cigarettes brands such as Marlboro and Lucky Strike.
However the law doesn't prohibit private citizens from possessing and smoking the clove cigarettes. Therefore clove cigarettes fans begin searching and purchasing kreteks on internet. Online shops selling clove cigarettes are mostly registered in Europe and Asia therefore not affected by the U.S regulation. Since the demand are skyrocketing, these online cigarettes shops become widely available on the internet.
Indonesia being the primary supplier of clove cigarettes smoked in the U.S, brought to the World Trade Organization case in April 2010, argued that the U.S. law that banned flavored cigarettes including clove cigarettes but exempted menthol cigarettes is discriminatory trade practice to get rid of foreign-made cigarettes under the disguise of being a legitimate public health policy.
The United States and Indonesia reached a final agreement put this dispute on hold, as both parties agreed to pursue and focus on other more important issues.