There are some interesting aspects to the Appellate Body's legal reasoning on "less favorable treatment" in Cloves. Ultimately, though, the AB's decision to uphold the Panel's finding of violation probably came down to skepticism over the regulatory distinction between clove and menthol cigarettes:
225. Moreover, we are not persuaded that the detrimental impact of Section 907(a)(1)(A) on competitive opportunities for imported clove cigarettes does stem from a legitimate regulatory distinction. We recall that the stated objective of Section 907(a)(1)(A) is to reduce youth smoking. One of the particular characteristics of flavoured cigarettes that makes them appealing to young people is the flavouring that masks the harshness of the tobacco, thus making them more pleasant to start smoking than regular cigarettes.440 To the extent that this particular characteristic is present in both clove and menthol cigarettes441, menthol cigarettes have the same product characteristic that, from the perspective of the stated objective of Section 907(a)(1)(A), justified the prohibition of clove cigarettes. Furthermore, the reasons presented by the United States for the exemption of menthol cigarettes from the ban on flavoured cigarettes do not, in our view, demonstrate that the detrimental impact on competitive opportunities for imported clove cigarettes does stem from a legitimate regulatory distinction. The United States argues that the exemption of menthol cigarettes from the ban on flavoured cigarettes aims at minimizing: (i) the impact on the US health care system associated with treating "millions" of menthol cigarette smokers affected by withdrawal symptoms; and (ii) the risk of development of a black market and smuggling of menthol cigarettes to supply the needs of menthol cigarette smokers. Thus, according to the United States, the exemption of menthol cigarettes from the ban on flavoured cigarettes is justified in order to avoid risks arising from withdrawal symptoms that would afflict menthol cigarette smokers in case those cigarettes were banned. We note, however, that the addictive ingredient in menthol cigarettes is nicotine, not peppermint or any other ingredient that is exclusively present in menthol cigarettes, and that this ingredient is also present in a group of products that is likewise permitted under Section 907(a)(1)(A), namely, regular cigarettes. Therefore, it is not clear that the risks that the United States claims to minimize by allowing menthol cigarettes to remain in the market would materialize if menthol cigarettes were to be banned, insofar as regular cigarettes would remain in the market.