Tobacco

Sin Taxers and Big Tobacco Go After DIY Smokers

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rolled this myself

Much to the irritation of tax-happy bureaucrats, smokers in the U.S. are turning to hand-rolling and cigarillos to avoid paying for new taxes on pre-packaged cigarettes. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, the DOJ "estimates states have lost $5 billion a year because people are using alternatives that have no state retail cigarette tax." 

Kentucky doubled its cigarette tax in 2009, leading to a 6 percent decline in cigarette tax revenue in 2010, and a 17.7 percent decline in cigarette tax revenue for the 2011 fiscal year, which ended in June. Based on the $262 million Kentucky collected from smokers last year, that's an impressive $44 million revenue shortfall. 

The revenue decline may come from some Kentucky smokers smoking less, but others are making use of smoke shop rolling machines, in which one can dump a fistful or two of almost-tax-free loose or pipe tobacco, and get nicely rolled smokes on the other side. 

Now both state governments and tobacco companies like Phillip Morris would like to force shops that stock rolling machines to pay manufacturer taxes:

Arkansas became the first state to outlaw the machines in April. And there are several pending lawsuits regarding roll-your-own cigarettes.

The federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which oversees federal taxes on tobacco and alcohol, recently ruled that retail establishments with roll-your-own machines must pay the same federal manufacturing tax as cigarette manufacturers. That ruling is being challenged in the courts, Dobson said.

If the ruling is upheld, retailers also would pay into an escrow account that is part of the national tobacco settlement between the states and cigarette manufacturers.

Those who use roll-your-own machines have an unfair commercial advantage over cigarette manufacturers, said Ken Garcia, a spokesman for Phillip Morris USA, one of the nation's largest manufacturers of cigarettes.

"We believe these products should be taxed the same as packaged cigarettes," he said.

Because it's not just about saving people, it's also about making money. 

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  1. I recently switched to electronic ciggs. They are a 1/3 the price and give me the nicotine punch without all the nastiness. Would save a shitload of people I bet.

    Which means they will tax or ban it out of existence.

    1. See, I don’t get this. As a ‘social smoker’ (something I’m told doesn’t exist), it’s the smoke. Without the smoke, what’s the point?

      1. I am also a social smoker. I can go for weeks/months without a ciggie. But once I’m hanging with friends and drinking beer, I suddenly have the urge to smoke.

        1. I’m the same way: I smoke when I’m around it, but not at home or on my own. More than a couple cigarettes over the course of an evening leaves a nasty taste in my mouth that lingers through the next day. The only time I “crave” it is when I’m drinking, and I almost never drink, so . . . Anyway, it’s been this way for me for twenty-something years now, so I think nicotine simply doesn’t have an addictive power over everyone who uses it.

          1. I’m one also. Not a big fan of the double hangover when I end up drinking too much and smoking too much.

      2. Nicotine. You are a fortunate one. For people prone to that sort of addiction, it is a strong attachment. And e-cigs simulate the smoking experience pretty well (especially if you smoke the cigarettes formerly known as “light”).

        1. I’ve never been able to be addicted to cigarettes. I see other smokers and frankly, addiction looks like a major hassle.

        2. Nicotine addiction is a bitch, and I’ve danced with damn near everything.

      3. I fucking hate you people – you and LH. Fuck.

        Man, a cig would be really delicious right now….*sigh*

        1. Ah – but that’s one more beautiful thing about vaping (e-cigs). I vape at my desk when I feel like it.

          1. I’m just trying to boot the nicotine outta my life. I would love to be free of the stuff forever.

            Paul called it a “hassle”, I’d say it’s more like a prison of my own making. Or being in an abusive relationship.

            1. Myself, as well as most e-cig smokers I’ve talked to, find that you tend to gradually stop smoking on your own once you switch. You’ll go days without and not even notice.

            2. I’m just trying to boot the nicotine outta my life. I would love to be free of the stuff forever.

              You can be. First you have to know that millions of people have freed themselves of tobacco – so it is possible. Secondly you need to realize that you are probably not substantially different than any of them – so if it was possible for them, it is more than likely possible for you. Next you just have to find a way that works for you.
              One suggestion: Don’t think of it as quitting smoking or as something you are going to do, because you will never be finished doing. Instead try thinking of it as being free of any craving or desire for tobacco – then you will be able to tell when you get there. A further suggestion: Try to recall a time before you ever began smoking and what that felt like. Hold that in your mind as your goal. Good luck.

      4. The vapor from e-cigs isn’t as thick as smoke, and the pull isn’t as great, but you do get a cloud of vapor, the feeling of rolling smoke in your mouth, and the exhale too. It’s not like it’s invisible gas with no “feel” to it.

        1. Then you’re smoking the wrong brand of e-cig.

          Vapor4Life is where it’s at.

      5. I had no problem giving up a pack-a-day habit.

        Although I still love me some nicotine, I went without it for years. Now, I get massive daily doses from cigars, and have been known to snus at the office.

        On those occasions when I can’t stogy and don’t have any snus, I find its more the doing of it that’s the habit, than the actual nicotine fix.

        Life is short. I’ll take my pleasures where I find them, thanks very much.

      6. I’m def not a social smoker with a pack a day habit. The e-ciggs take some getting used to but the vaper and the sensation is close enough for me. And the buzz first thing in the morning is spot on.

        You just lose the nastiness of smelling like an ashtray and your breathing improves incredibly.

    2. Same here. Puffing my cherry-vanilla cola ecig right here in my office. 😀

    3. Too late. Several counties in KY have outlawed e-cigs in public.

  2. This is hilarious. Just like during the lege session in FL earlier this year when Altria was running ads talking about having cigar companies “pay their fair share”. Fuck you, Philip Morris you statist fucks.

  3. I don’t see how forcing people to use auto-rollers at home discourages smoking. …Oh, right.

    Perhaps they should try taxing rolling papers, since there is no legitimate use for them anyways.

    1. I use Zig Zag papers to get my band saw tolerances set up right. My wife tried to buy them for me while out on a shopping trip. In response to her inquiry at the tobacco counter, Kroger clerk: “We’re not THAT kind of Kroger. Try one in [crummier-neighborhood.”

      1. Try the paper wrapper on a soda fountain straw. By coincidence they also make good cigarette papers, because they continue burning once lit.

    2. Free,

      One of my old room mates in the service was the living embodiment of the Marlboro man. Big rough cowboy from Montana.

      He also rolled his own cigarettes. During one of our inspections some boot LT found his rolling papers and accused him of being a pot head.

      Long story short, he had to report with the LT to our CO and “prove” he knew how to roll a cigarette. Not only did Dave roll one for the officers, but he did it one handed because, “I have to keep the other hand on the reins of my horse” and that was how he learned.

      The CO went for it, but the LT suspected Dave of being a closet pothead for our entire tour on that base.

      1. he did it one handed because, “I have to keep the other hand on the reins of my horse” and that was how he learned.

        Goddam. That’s a real man.

      2. I can’t do it one-handed, but I can roll them in my fingers, in the dark, and they look as good as any you can buy ready-made. It’s mostly know-how and a bit of practice; I rolled my own for about twenty years until I finally managed to free myself from tobaco fifteen years ago.

  4. Government has killed the goose that laid the golden eggs. I use roll your own cigs and would prefer Marlboros. However, my state keeps upping the tax, so I look for alternatives. First, go and buy from a lower tax state, and now, buy at a roll-your-own place. If my state had kept the tax reasonable, I would have simply continued buying packaged, taxed smokes at the local corner market.

    1. I think I’m going over to a store today that will let me “rent” an autoroller while selling me the papers, filters, and tobacco. I believe a helpful clerk may even “assist” me in loading the thing and finding the on switch.

    2. You’d think they’d learn from this and find the level of taxes that brings in the most revenue…but no. They’re either too stupid or resent the peons avoiding their tax too much, or both. Probably both.

      1. The taxes are more addictive than the nicotine.

  5. the DOJ “estimates states have lost $5 billion a year…”

    This word “lost”… I do not think it means what you think it means.

    1. My sentiment exactly.

    2. Hey, when the government loses, the people win.

    3. What came to my mind when I read that was, “What the hell is the Department of Justice doing gathering this data? “

  6. Arkansas became the first state to outlaw the machines in April. And there are several pending lawsuits regarding roll-your-own cigarettes.

    The federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which oversees federal taxes on tobacco and alcohol, recently ruled that retail establishments with roll-your-own machines must pay the same federal manufacturing tax as cigarette manufacturers. That ruling is being challenged in the courts, Dobson said.

    “Sin” taxes aren’t about controlling sin. They’re about extracting money.

    1. “””Sin” taxes aren’t about controlling sin. They’re about extracting money.””

      Extracting money from sin. Funny how bible belt states and their God fearing citizens don’t take issue when they profit from sin.

      1. “Baptists and bootleggers” or “politics make for strange bedfellows.” And not just Congressional pages.

        The God-fearin’ Bible-thumpers think smoking is sinful (chapter and verse, please) and should be banned to promote cleanliness and Godliness.

        The Progressives want you to be healthy because you are part of the collective socio-economic organism and should you get cancer, you will drain valuable medical resources to be cured or kept alive. You might even spread your sickness to the rest of the organism (Secondhand smoke is no joke), ala Typhoid Mary.

        Bureaucrats and politicians want that sweet lucre (Oh noez! Our revenues haz bin lost!). The end.

        1. The God-fearin’ Bible-thumpers think smoking is sinful

          But they shoot down the progressive-proposed tobacco tax every time it comes up in the GA General Assembly.
          You might want to compare cigarette taxes inside and outside the Bible Belt. Texas is bad, Thanks Rick Perry! Arkansas too, Thanks Huckster!
          You’ll find both did it for revenue and “health”, not sin. It was the progressives that fucked up NC cigs.

          Marlboros used to go for less than $40 a carton, tax included until the Altria Group got greedy a few months ago.

          1. “Marlboros used to go for less than $40 a carton, tax included until the Altria Group got greedy a few months ago.”

            1. ^^^^^^^^^^^IN GEORGIA^^^^^^^^^

          2. NC raised tobacco taxes? I’d have figured they would be the last state to do so. (I could see VA doing it, what with the spillover from the DC crowd.)

    2. The federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau

      What purpose does this bureau serve, how many people does it employ and what is it’s budget?

      Next question: why does this bureau exist if we already have the (B)ATF(E)?*

      *They may have added another letter or two to their ever-expanding acronym into areas they continue to infringe on state legislatures and the FBI.

      Full disclosure: I hope every ATF agent has a serious single car accident on their way to work today.

  7. Fucking incentives. How do they work?

    1. The meme that keeps on giving.

      1. Fucking memes, etc.

  8. Kentucky doubled its cigarette tax in 2009, leading to a 6 percent decline in cigarette tax revenue in 2010

    Liberals keep telling me this never happens.

    1. Yea, Art Laffer called, he says liberals dont understand economics.

    2. Only Warren Buffett a fucking idiot couldn’t foresee Kentucky’s decline in revenue.

    3. gosh if we’d only drop all taxes, imagine how much tax revenue would roll in !?

      1. And if we’d only raise them infinitely, imagine how much revenue we’d roll in?!

        1. well lesee; one’s an infinite amount & the other is none.

          1. …per laffer’s “logic”.

            1. You’ll note, per your first silly response, that it’s the “Laffer curve“. I’ll let you marinate on that a minute.

              1. It’s true! Progressive liberals really don’t understand basic economics.

  9. And tax those fucking bicycles already, too.

    1. If you really want to hit the granola crowd where it hurts, put a huge tax on plaid shirts, thick-rimmed glasses and alt-country concert tickets.

      1. I would just tax pork pie hats and deep vees.

        1. Tax irony.

          1. Well, … OK.

            Just leave sarcasm alone.

      2. And skinny jeans.

        (I was at the WordPress conference this past weekend, it was skinny jeans all around. More Mao hats than porkpies, though).

        1. Sorry, but I cannot support a tax on skinny jeans. Maybe we can make the revenue up by instituting a 10,000% tax on ironic fedoras.

          1. Stay the fuck away from my fedoras. Or figure out how to grow me some new hair. Either/or. Take your pick.

            1. I thought everybody here wore a top hat and monocle. Now I’m confused.

              1. I thought everybody here wore a top hat and monocle. Now I’m confused.

                We do, but that’s ceremonial garb, usually only worn during our gleeful subjugation of the proletariat.

                Oh, and orgies (but make sure to disinfect your monocle afterwards).

              2. I only dress in the designated garb because of all the money the Kochtupus pays me to do so. I’d prefer to hang out in jeans and a tie-died T-shirt, but I’ve got a family to feed.

                1. @PS Your mistaking Reason readers for the Tea Party.

      1. Wow, it’s like a tiny license plate for your license plate! Next, they should make an even tinier license plate to go on the tiny license plate that goes on your license plate!

        Cute overload!!!

  10. Because it’s not just about saving people, it’s also about making money.

    It’s only about making money. Don’t kid yourself.

    1. I bet you’re really worried they are going to start taxing your habit: smoking pole.

      1. That’s all under the table. Screw you, tax man!

    2. It’s only about making money. Don’t kid yourself.

      You’re out of your mind. If that were the case, then anything they couldn’t make money on would be given less emphas…..

      Ok.

  11. DOJ “states have lost $5 billion a year because people are using alternatives that have no state retail cigarette tax.” Really? This is just atrocious logic. States have not ‘lost’ a penny here. Failure to gain is not equivalent to loss and statements such as this just assume this money is OWED the state — that it as much as already possesses it.

    1. It’s the state’s money, you’re just borrowing it.

      Something something roads infrastructure something.

  12. A quick Google search found lots of different cigarette rollers or injectors for anywhere between $5 and $150. Even at the high end, it’s more than worth getting one for personal use. Get them before they are outlawed.

    1. Fuck em if they’re outlawed. Make your own. Rollers aren’t hard to make.

  13. This is absolutely fucked.

    I’m a DIY smoker. My habit costs me about 50 bucks a month (and the cigarettes taste better) whereas if I bought my cigarettes at the convenience store, my habit would run about 160-180 bucks a month, for stale, chemical-addled mummy dust.

    It’s bad enough that tobacco manufacturers can’t send tobacco through the mail under the guise of “preventing bootleggers” (I used to be able to get Drum for 6 bucks a pack – it’s 10 bucks at the grocery store), but now they want to bleed us some more.

    We really need to start a grow your own movement, not as a pro-smoking statement, but as an anti-tax statement.

    1. Growing your own tobacco is a bitch. Curing it so its actually smokable is even harder.

    2. Mr. DNA – before I quit, I was a Drum smoker, too. When I was smoking, the Drum cans were a little over $10 (of course, I live in a low tax state, too.)

      If that wasn’t annoying enough, can you check the compression on the LibertyDrome videos? They’re taking me a long time to load.

      1. Which videos in particular are you having trouble with?

        I’ve been in the process of making multiple streams available… if it’s a hi-def video, it’s encoded at 2500 kbps, then the SD version is encoded at 1500 kbps, then there are 1000 and 500 kbps versions that should load if you have a slow connection.

        I’m in the process of upgrading FEE.tv now, but Adam vs The Man, Atlas Network, and Cop Block should be okay.

        Let me know what you’re having trouble with and I’ll see it I can fix it.

        1. I was checking out the FEE vids. If you’re upgrading those, I’ll just look at the others. If I have a problem with them, I’ll whine at you again.

          1. If you were watching any clips in the Lectures section, you shouldn’t have any problems with:

            The Myth of the Robber Barons
            Public Choice Economics
            and
            One Nation Under Big Government.

            All those clips have alternate streams. The whole channel will be fixed by the end of the week. “The Myth of The Robber Barons” is a great lecture – Burt Folsom and Lawrence Reed are the best FEE lecturers, IMO.

            btw, did you see that Mises.org is coming to Libertydrome? Cato Institute, too, most likely.

    1. Crap… apparently, the Renton police claim this isn’t Mr. Fuddlesticks which is part of a separate investigation… Wow this is sordid.

      The investigation is separate from the case of “Mrfuddlesticks,” a series of cartoons posted on YouTube in April lampooning city police and personnel, said Preeti Shridhar, city communications director.

      Those videos, while using the same technology, are the subject of another internal investigation, Shirdhar said.

    2. He speaks in robotic tones to a mustachioed police officer.

      Robotic tones? On an xtranormal video?!? Those bastards must be stopped.

      You know, not all journalists are morons, but the good ones really need to throw a couple of thousand blanket parties.

    3. Two other high-ranking officers who were not identified ? a sergeant and acting sergeant ? were given written reprimands because they allegedly knew of the video before it was posted but saw nothing wrong with it, the documents said.

      Emphasis added.

    4. My goodness, the police are very sensitive in Renton. They wear that blue hard-candy shell on the outside, but inside they’re soft, marshmellow sweetness.

    5. He also said viewers might conclude that jail operations and jail personnel were “incompetent” and “ignorant.”
      You must not speak of fight club.

    6. Marsalisi was demoted to sergeant.

      Documents indicated Marsalisi’s pay would drop from more than $130,000 to roughly $102,000.

      A fucking sergeant makes six figures?

  14. As of 9/2012, no one will be allowed to quit smoking; those who quit AFTER 12/1994 will be required to pay the US Treasury the requisite tax of one (1) pack of cigarettes per day up to and including the present day, with additional payments to be made on the same basis each month hereafter.

  15. Furthermore, each taxpayers various accounts (viz, checking, cash withdrawls, debit card, credit card, etc.) will be reviewed for purchase price of cigarettes by the pack, carton, or multiples thereof; claims of non-cigarette purchases are for the taxpayer to prove.

  16. I’m wondering – is it illegal in any states to grow your own supply of tobacco? If not, how much more of a bitch would it be to grow and roll your own, especially for a heavy smoker? And how much more economical would it really be?

    1. For the time being, as long as you’re growing tobacco for personal use, it can’t be taxed. For now.

      I don’t know about what it would cost – money and effort – to support a habit on homegrown tobacco, but I’m curious, too.

      1. Its orders of magnitude more difficult than growing other commonly smoked plants.

        That’s what I hear anyway.

        1. Sounds like we’ll wind up with things like the “Chicago Department Of Gardening.”

          1. They’ll need their own SWAT team if they expect to be taken seriously.

            1. SWAT teams? To go after people growing illicit plants? Surely you jest.

          2. Don’t you try growing a tomato without my permission, motherfucker!

            1. Well don’t try growing it around tobaco anyway – or even around cigarettes. Tobaco is a carrier of a plant virus that is easily transmitted to tomato plants.

      2. It’s surprisingly simple. I’m actually growing some on my balcony right now. Bit of a nitrogen fiend, but as long as you water and fertilize it, it’s easy. The only challenge is finding somewhere to dry it all

        1. Good luck! I have a green thumb and my tobacco dies after sprouting.The Fed law used to be that you could grow up to a tenth of an acre but that might have gone away with the end of the allotments.

    2. The Seedman, a site devoted to cultivating your own tobacco and processing it for smoking.

      1. Thanks! From the site:

        “. . . generally a tobacco plant will produce about 3-4 ounces of dry, cured tobacco . . . A pound of pure tobacco will normally produce about 2 cartons of cigarettes. As a rule of thumb, figure about 4 plants per carton”

        Sounds like you’d need to have a fair amount of space set aside just to maintain one person’s habit.

        1. I haven’t had time to peruse the whole article…. I assume if you have a live plant, you just harvest the leaves and the plant continues producing more leaves? If that’s the case, then 10-12 plants ought to be enough sustain a pack a day habit.

          Even though the cutting and curing process seems like a bitch, I’m now intrigued. Farm fresh produce is so good, I would imagine fresh-grown tobacco would make a lovely smoke.

          1. From what I’ve heard (a buddy of mine had a farm that raised some tobacco), you need to harvest the leaves at just the right time, and only some of the leaves make good tobacco. So, on each plant, you will wind up using only a handful of leaves.

          2. I haven’t read the article too closely either, since i”m still at work, but I wasn’t able to glean a “recovery time” between harvests; i.e., how long after you clip the leaves (or whatever) can you use that same plant again? I think that would largely determine how many plants you’d need to support a personal habit.

        2. I gather properly curing the tobacco is not easy. Also, that you can easily wind up with tobacco that is hella strong, nicotine-wise.

          1. If I ever decide to relocate to the Texas Hill Country, I’d probably take up growing tobacco even if I didn’t smoke. There’s a huge homebrewing community there, and lots of fertile soil. It could be fun if made into a social/community thing.

          2. Overall, it sounds like a giant pain in the ass. I’m kind of disappointed, to be honest. I’m not a smoker, but I was hoping to discover that growing your own stash – and thus dodging the taxes – was a little-known way of sticking it to the federal government. If it was, though, you know they’d do to DIY tobacco growers what they did to the raw milk people.

    3. One would think the division of labor would be more economical, but the governments are taxing the division of labor. (and wondering why the economy sucks.)

    4. Wouldn’t the Feds whip out Wickard v. Filburn and put an end to it?

      After all, Filburn harvested 12 acres over his allotment for consumption on his own property, the U.S. fined him, and the USSC unanimously ruled against Filburn saying that if Filburn grew wheat for his own use rather than buying it, this growing as substitute for buying affected interstate commerce.

  17. Those who use roll-your-own machines have an unfair commercial advantage over cigarette manufacturers, said Ken Garcia, a spokesman for Phillip Morris USA, one of the nation’s largest manufacturers of cigarettes.

    Longtime smokers familiar with hand rolling will attest that a most simple and reliable technique for rolling perfect cigarettes is to employ a dollar bill to form its shape. Come to think of it, this might actually make the Federal Reserve subject to this same tax.

    1. Friends who knew I rolled my own cigs often asked me to roll their combustibles. More than once, I heard something like “it looks just like an unfiltered Camel!” Followed by them getting a pen or something to take a little out of one end for twisting.

      1. There used to be a slang term for a joint the size of “an unfiltered Camel,” but I disremember what it was.

  18. What purpose does this bureau serve, how many people does it employ and what is it’s budget?

    To collect Federal revenuetaxes on alcohol, tobacco, and firearms, ensure that enough revenuetaxes have been collected, to monitor those who are supposed to pay said revenuetaxes and to investigate those suspected of not paying the revenuetaxes. It employs approximately 500 people nationwide. Assuming I read the budget correctly, the TTB received $109 million for FY2011.

    why does this bureau exist if we already have the (B)ATF(E)?*

    The TTB is under the control of the Treasury is primarily concerned with revenuetax collection. The BATFE is under the Justice Department and deals with statutory and regulatory law enforcement. It’s kind of a choice between being anally fisted by the velvet glove (TTB), or the iron gauntlet (BATFE).

  19. I think I should invest in a company that makes home cigarette-rolling machines.

    -jcr

  20. “Now both state governments and tobacco companies like Phillip Morris would like to force shops that stock rolling machines to pay manufacturer taxes:”

    I can’t blame Phillip Morris (actually Altria). After all, the government has extorted vast sums of money from it in exchange for creating barriers to entry for competitor selling cheaper cigarettes.

    If the government is not going to hold up it’s end of the racket, Altria should get a refund.

  21. My dad had a little handroller he used when I was a kid, I doubt it cost more then 10$. sure a bit more work then an electric machine. but wouldn’t take more then 10 sec a cig to make.

  22. Before I switched to electronic cigarettes (which are also exempt from confiscatory cigarette taxes) I would absolutely go to a “roll your own” store to save money.

    Officials can say the taxes are only about prevention, but only a fraction of tobacco taxes go toward prevention efforts. Most of the money goes to the general fund, and most of those accounts are empty.

    I’m reminded of the Beatles song,
    “If you drive a car, they’ll tax the street
    If you get to cold, they’ll tax the heat
    If you take a walk, they’ll tax your feet.”

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