Written by Puff Staff

Friday, 13 July 2012

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roll your owntobacco legislation

rollleadpic1For this week, we’ll be looking at yet another piece of legislation that affects smokers, plus a couple of summer cigar events taking place around the country to help you plan your Summer vacation.







Is This the End of the “Roll-Your-Own” Tobacco Shop?

Cigars aren’t the only tobacco products targeted for legislation by the U.S. government. A new bill that just became law effectively shuts down every shop in the country that allows customers to make their own cigarettes or cigars.

On Friday, July 6, President Barack Obama signed a transportation bill that contains one paragraph inserted by Sen. Max Baucus, (D-Mont.) that amends the standing definition of a “manufacturer of tobacco products” to include the owners and operators of businesses that sell loose tobacco to customers for rolling in their machines. The bill passed by a vote of 373 to 52 in the House and 74 to 19 in the Senate.


The RYO stores began to pop up across the country in 2009, after Congress more than doubled the federal excise tax on cigarettes while also raising the tax on RYO tobacco to $24.78 a pound from $1.10. The tax on pipe tobacco was also raised, but just from $1.10 a pound to $2.83. That’s when the RYO stores began offering their customers the opportunity to roll their own smokes on the machines for less than half the price of packaged cigarettes.

For the heavy smoker, the savings could be substantial. While a carton of cigarettes sells in most stores for $40-50, the customer could roll 200 cigarettes at a RYO store for just $24.

Obviously, this is disastrous news for the mom-and-pop stores that have invested thousands of dollars in their shops and the rolling machines, which cost about $33,000 each. One of them is Sonny Wiessen, who owns 12 RYO locations in Nevada, including stores in Las Vegas, Boulder City and Laughlin.

On Thursday, July 5, Weissen told a reporter, “Effective 2 o’clock tomorrow (Friday) we’re going to be closed down. He’s gonna be signing the transportation bill. ... They don’t want anyone to know they’ve gotten paid off by Big Tobacco.” He added, “So they went about it by the back door. The way the (new) law is written it says any roll-your-own machines—our machines or one you have in your own house—are illegal. When we talked to our attorneys last week, they said ... ‘You have to have a federal license, or your fine could be $4,000 a carton, and you could get a year in jail.’”


Weissen summed this law up, saying, “It’s government at its worst. My kids are going to be OK. I’m gonna lose about a million dollars on this. ... My machines now are basically good as really big boat anchors.”

So who’s really behind this bill? According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, “Lawmakers passed the amendment after the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated in April that changes in the market for roll-your-own cigarettes had reduced federal revenue by as much as $492 million between April 2009 and September 2011. It also followed heavy lobbying by major cigarette companies such as Altria Group Inc. and the National Association of Convenience Stores.”

So as much as the unfortunate business owners affect by this law would like to blame the federal government, they should really be looking at the real culprit—big tobacco.

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