Should Smokers Have To Pay The Full Tax If They Roll Their Own Cigarettes?

Since state and local governments began slapping heavy taxes on cigarettes, a number of smokers have managed to pay less by buying loose tobacco and rolling their own. But as a growing number of stores have begun offering free-to-use roll-your-own machines that take the loose material and spit out a pile of smokes that look like they came straight out of the carton, some lawmakers are crying foul.

“It’s a willful attempt to evade the tax that is in Massachusetts,” says State Senator James Timilty to WBZ-TV. “We should shut them down.”

A man who sells some of the roll-your-own machines to stores figures that Massachusetts is losing out on around $13 million/year while the feds miss out on $5 million in taxes that would have been collected had people bought pre-manufactured cigarettes instead.

He says it’s just smart smokers making a sound financial decision: “[T]here is a law on the books that a lot of people were not aware of, and that as the public becomes more aware of it, the more they are taking advantage of it.”

Cigarettes For $3 A Pack? Roll Your Own [WBZ-TV]


Edit Your Comment

  1. comedian says:

    “It’s a willful attempt to AVOID the tax that is in Massachusetts”

    FTFY Sen. Timilty.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      That’s just the issue. Avoidance vs. evasion. There’s, as far as I know, no specific caselaw on these stores, but there’s certainly a strong case to be made that they’re engaged in evasion, not avoidance.

      In NYC, a couple of these stores have closed after the city filed tax evasion suits against them.

      • longfeltwant says:

        I see no problem with any of this. If there is a problem at all, it is a problem in the law, not the behavior. Why isn’t the obvious solution to tax raw tobacco?

        • Supernautus says:

          they already do tax raw tobacco, just at a lower rate than cigarettes. Which is fair, in general terms it has lower levels of harmful chemicals and is probably a safer alternative than pre-packaged cigarettes. The cost is always lower because it is a less desirable method of smoking (for smokers) generally carried out by very few smokers.

          I don’t know entirely how it works in the US, but in the UK, packages of tobacco are taxed the same as cigarettes, but generally, a pouch of rolling tobacco will provide enough tobacco for a lot more cigarettes than a pack. Mine tends to last me at least a week or two (from a 50g pack)

        • Firethorn says:

          Because then ‘rich’ pipe smokers would have to pay more? Likely well to do cigar smokers?

      • Cat says:

        “Anyone may arrange his affairs so that his taxes shall be as low as
        possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which best pays the
        treasury. There is not even a patriotic duty to increase one’s taxes.
        Over and over again the Courts have said that there is nothing sinister
        in so arranging affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everyone
        does it, rich and poor alike and all do right, for nobody owes any
        public duty to pay more than the law demands.”

        ~ Judge Learned Hand

      • YouDidWhatNow? says:

        “but there’s certainly a strong case to be made that they’re engaged in evasion, not avoidance.”

        No there isn’t. Premade cigarettes are taxed. The supplies to make your own are not. End of story.

        • Cat says:

          The *supplies* to make your own are not taxed by the federal government, but the tobacco itself is, albeit at a different rate than pre-rolled tobacco.

        • Baka-no-Kami says:

          Evasion involves lying or another illegal activity to reduce your tax burden. Avoidance just involves changing your behavior.

          If a case can be made that the OP is tax evasion, then a case can be made that anyone in the state who has ever made their own furniture from scrap lumber is guilty of tax evasion. Anyone self employed who has turned down a job near the end of the year because it would have pushed them into a higher tax bracket (and eaten any possible profit from the job) is a tax evader.

      • missy070203 says:

        in stores in PA you have to pay a rental fee to use the stores machine it’s still less than paying cig taxes

        • DarthCoven says:

          Yes but in PA i’m pretty sure I can buy a pack of smokes for the change between my couch cushions (in comparison to NYC, where i need to empty my bank account)

      • maruawe says:

        This is the same practices used by big business to avoid Federal taxes and they are right in using these avoidance’s…..

      • Jawaka says:

        So is it considered evasion or avoidance if a person just chooses to smoke their tobacco from a pipe or glass bowl

  2. Agozyen says:

    These people are thieves. Period. Now I am going to make a cheeseburger very similar to what I can get at Burger King. And not pay taxes on it.

    • KishuT says:

      how dare you!!!

    • Marlin says:

      You didn’t pay tax on the meat?

      Also there is no hamburger tax, there is a Cig tax.

      • Rebecca K-S says:

        In some places, indeed, you wouldn’t pay tax on the meat, and in many places it’s a very small one. There is sort of a hamburger tax – here I’d pay 1% on the ingredients in the grocery store and ~10% to get the burger at a restaurant.

        • Snowblind says:

          Most places don’t have food tax on food intended to be consumed at home.

          MI and AL are the only ones that tax at the full rate and 11 more are reduced.

          NONE of the East or West Coast states do except VA. “On the Coasts” is where I suspect most of the Consumerists live anyway.

        • working class Zer0 says:

          So you’ve taken to eating Beagles to avoid the tax on hamburger!
          We will pass a new bill taxing Beagles and other dogs in the hound family Miss Smartypants!

      • Bsamm09 says:

        In a lot of areas the tax is different whether the food is prepared or not. If the tax was higher for prepared food, buying the raw ingredients and preparing it yourself would avoid the higher tax.

        • frank64 says:

          What if they sold the raw meat, and had a grill right there for you to put the meat on and cook?

          • Bsamm09 says:

            IANAL but I would think that it would depend on when you were able to grill the burger. If you had to purchase the ingredients BEFORE you could cook it would not be a prepared meal. If you could grill before you paid then it COULD be a prepared meal once the transaction was done. If you grill, it is prepared. If you don’t grill and no longer have the option to grill, it is an unprepared food.

            • kujospam says:

              In Ohio, you only pay tax on food if you sitdown and eat it. So if you get something to go, no tax. If you dine in. You get sales tax. Almost 8% price difference. Beverages except for tap water is taxed no matter what.

      • seth_lerman says:

        In NY, no, no tax on raw meat (from which I would make a hamburger). The bun I think I would pay tax on and the produce (lettuce, tomato) would be tax free as well.

        tax on “prepared food and food products” no tax on the un-prepared.

      • Agozyen says:

        There is a general sales tax on the meat. In some states, like Virginia, there is a higher tax rate applied to prepared foods, like the hamburgers you get at Burger King.

        If I buy the individual components at a grocery store then buy a prepared hamburger at that same location, I get taxed at two different rates.

      • dolemite says:

        Yeah, in my area, there are extra taxes when you dine out. It comes out to be around 11-12% altogether, while regular sales tax is simply 5%.

        It’s always nice when you go out to eat, and you get $30 worth of food, and you pay closer to $40 after $3.50 tax, then tip.

    • AEN says:

      I always order it to go and then eat it in the store to avoid the take-out tax.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      You are a very uninformed individual.

    • hmburgers says:

      I see what you did there… and I agree, “these people”–the law makers who are creating these taxes, are thieves…

      • Agozyen says:

        I agree 100%.

      • Kate says:

        Um, you get government services and you think the people who are paid by yourself to set up how you should pay for those services are thieves?

        And that makes you a what? A wannabe thief?

        • Agozyen says:

          If they start charging the different higher tax rate based on the raw materials, what’s to stop them from doing the same thing to food or anything else? Yes, cigarettes are evil and I don’t smoke, but this is ridiculous.

  3. samonela says:

    I’m all for the taxing of vices, but geez. These folks found a tax loop hole and you want to close it off ASAP? Yet when a large corporation finds one they can, and will, exploit it for years, maybe decades, on end. And so long as some of that goes toward a reelection campaign that makes it okay?


    • maruawe says:

      Exactly how are you going to tax politicians…and their vices

      • working class Zer0 says:

        The next proposed amendment to the Constitution will make it illegal “to prod, poke, chastise, harm, make fun of, molest or kill any of the governments cash cows or golden goose’s by not doing your part to feed them.”
        Only the government can do that by their inept attempts to satisfy their gluttonous appetite.They will eat their children if it comes to that.

  4. Marlin says:

    Would not the shop/machine have to pay the tax since they are the “manufacturer”?

    Just read seems NH SC also agrees with what I was thinking.

    “Last summer the State Supreme Court in New Hampshire ruled stores with ‚Äúroll your own‚Äù machines were technically manufacturers and should be subject to the higher tax rate.”

    • axhandler1 says:

      I feel like if they look at it that way, every single person who “rolls their own” at home is a manufacturer, and should be taxed as such. Which is ridiculous. The business doesn’t sell manufacturing services, they simply sell tobacco and papers and have a rolling machine on site that is free to use. Now, if the store was rolling them prior to sale, or charging a fee for the use of the machine, I might feel differently about it.

      • YouDidWhatNow? says:

        There’s no difference in the free-to-use machine at the tobacco store and the free-to-use chopsaw in the lumber shed at Menard’s. Both simply provide a service to the customer, allowing them to do some basic processing on the goods they’re buying before they walk out of the store with them.

    • longfeltwant says:

      No, because that’s not how the law is written. If this jurisdiction wants to tax unrolled tobacco, that is a simple matter of passing a law. Until then, these citizens are exactly, precisely following the law, and modifying their behavior according to the law as written.

      The law, as written, was designed to disincentivize people from smoking pre-rolled tobacco cigarettes. These citizens are showing exactly the behavior incentivized by the law.

      • Cat says:


      • quail says:

        In early American paintings from the late 1700s you’ll see house upon house without front steps leading to the door. Seems that a ‘house’ was taxed at a higher rate than an ordinary ‘building’ and the tax laws defined a house as a building with steps leading to the door. Because of that it was only the wealthy for a time who put steps in front of their house.

  5. PhelpsG says:

    I’m old enough to remember Laredos, based on the same tax loophole back around 1970. You bought a little rolling machine gizmo which came with loose tobacco, and rolled your own. It was such a nuisance to fiddle with that it never caught on.

    Logically, the legislature should simply tax loose tobacco at the same rate they tax pre-rolled cigarettes. Presto, problem solved.

  6. pop top says:

    It’s not like they are entirely avoiding taxes by doing it this way; they still have to pay sales tax on everything. And to close the loophole, why not tax the tobacco itself, instead of just cigarettes?

    Personal anecdote: I used to intern for a state representative and part of my job was sorting through constituent mail. There were so many smokers who bought cigarettes online who were then hit with the tax bill and complained to the rep saying that they were lawful taxpayers who shouldn’t have to pay taxes on their unlawfully-purchased goods. The cognitive dissonance of those letters was astounding.

    • hmburgers says:

      Cigards… pipes… chewing tobacco… etc… all would need to be taxed in that case.

      They had a hard enough fight getting taxes on cigarettes w/o starting in all the other avenues of getting tobacco…

      Not to mention that much of complaints surrounding cigarette health issues (which is supposedly why the tax is in place) are not specifically indicative of tobacco itself, but rather the additional ingrediants in a cigarette–which may not be present in a self-rolled cigarette.

      Vice taxes are bullshit to begin with… they should have simply let this one go.

  7. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    The stores are manufacturers so it will get taxed. The state wants the revenue and manufacturers don’t want the cheap competition (they make more off cigarettes than raw tobacco).

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      How is the store a manufacturer? You’re doing the manufacturing yourself.

      Imagine walking into a Subway and giving someone your order, and they just point at the ingredients and say “OK, have at it.”

      A Subway sandwich is manufactured at the store. A customer using a free-to-use machine at a tobacco store is not getting a manufactured product.

      • There's room to move as a fry cook says:

        You’d still pay the same taxes at Subway whether they put it together for you or if they had a “build it yourself” buffet counter.

        • YouDidWhatNow? says:

          The point is that your claim that the store is a “manufacturer” is blatantly false. Either you do it yourself, or someone does it for you. If you’re doing it yourself, you’re not buying a manufactured good. Any dissonance on that issue is mind-boggling.

        • dangermike says:

          But to make the analogy correct, you would have to consider that the taxes being “avoided” are specifically on cigarettes. Not tobacco, not cigars, not rolls of sliced salami. Carrying through that notion, if there were a tax levied upon the purchase of sandwiches, this would be like the government (funded by subway and quizno’s lobbyists) crying fowl that supermarkets sell sliced meat and cheese along with bread and condiments. They’re just a sandwich waiting to happen!

  8. smartmuffin says:

    No. But we should elimiate the tax on regular cigarettes, too.

    • Costner says:

      You could argue we should elimite the EXCESS taxes on tobacco, but I would never agree with removing all taxes.

      Then again, when you examine the societal costs of smoking, it stands to reason they would be taxed at a higher rate. Not only does it help offset the additional costs which result from smoking (healthcare costs etc) but it serves as a disincentive. I guess I’m torn because although I’m not a huge fan of sin taxes, I also acknowledge that cigarettes aren’t exact a “need” and if someone wishes to avoid the taxes they could simply not smoke.

      • smartmuffin says:

        The whole situation is just hilarious. Governments intervene in the free market and restrict the natural urge of human beings to use voluntary trade to improve their standard of living. Then the government officials are SHOCKED AND APPALLED that some people work hard to find a way around the barriers setup by the government.

        Roll-your-own is probably the least of this guy’s concern. If the taxes on cigs are high enough, you can bet there’s an organized crime sponsored black-market at work here, too.

      • Saltpork says:

        Yes because addiction follows logic. /s

      • Skyhawk says:

        FWIW- The average medical costs of a smoker are considerably lower than a non-smoker due to the fact that they die younger and do not live long enough to avail themselves of the most costly end-of-life care.

        So, now that’s been established, what’s the tax for again?

        Oh, and I’ve never smoked.

  9. dolemite says:

    “Only the 1% are allowed to dodge taxes!” cried Congressmen.

  10. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

    Yes. Just as a store prepared food is taxed, a store prepared cigarette should also be taxed.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      …when you go into a Subway, you don’t prepare the sandwich yourself – the employees do it for you.

      If you use the free-to-use cigarette machine at the tobacco store, you’re making your cigarettes yourself. Not store-prepared. Self-prepared.

      Not any different than using the free-to-use chopsaw in the lumber shed at a lumber yard to process the lumber you’re buying before you leave the retailer with your purchase.

      • Jawaka says:

        Yeah but that lumber isn’t taxed at a different rate depending on who cut it.

        • YouDidWhatNow? says:

          Correct, but beside the point. The point is that the consumer is not buying a manufactured, ready-to-use good. They are buying materials and doing their own processing on it.

          The tax is imposed on manufactured, ready-to-use cigarettes. These people are not buying manufactured, ready-to-use cigarettes, and the analogy to the chopsaw is apt just in terms of pointing out the difference in buying a manufactured, ready-to-use product or doing some processing of your own at the point of sale.

      • consumeristjohnny says:

        Actually, if you went to Subway and bought all the ingredients to make your own sub you WOULD be taxed at EXACTLY the same rate as if they prepared it for you.

        • YouDidWhatNow? says:

          That wooshing sound is the point going right over your head.

          The point is in a product being made at a store, or the customer making it themselves from stuff they buy at the store.

          At Subway, your product is made by employees at the store. With these cigarettes, you buy the stuff to make them, and then you yourself actually make them.

          Ergo, the tobacco store is not the manufacturer of the cigarettes, whereas Subway is a manufacturer of sandwiches.

          …and for the record, let’s imagine that there *was* a tax on “manufactured” sandwiches. You expect to pay that tax on a sandwich made for you at Subway, but if they did actually allow you to just buy their ingredients and then make the sandwich yourself there in the store, would you expect to pay that “manufactured sandwich” tax or would you expect that, since you made the sandwich yourself, that you wouldn’t be charged said tax?

        • Kate says:

          Well no, because prepared foods are usually taxed while often unprepared food is not. It’s just that Subway doesn’t usually sell unprepared food, but they shouldn’t tax you and if they do, it’s probably illegal.

      • chargernj says:

        Subway is a bad example, but it is a sandwich shop that most people are familiar with so I can see what you are getting at.

        A better example would be your local deli that sells both sandwiches and luncheon meat by the pound. It’s more convenient to buy a sandwich. But If I just buy the ingredients and make my own sandwiches, I can eat for almost the whole week for the same price. It shouldn’t much matter where I assemble my sandwich either.

    • bender123 says:

      The only issue I have with this is the reason for the tax was to “promote health”…now the tax seems to be to “raise money”. Yes, they should be taxed, but the official cited betrays the tax is nothing but a money grab.

    • maruawe says:

      The store is NOT rolling the cigarettes the customer is

    • SamiJ says:

      When you buy popcorn or a hotpocket from a vending machine, it’s not taxed. Even though you are going to pop it in the microwave that is next to it, and cook it.

  11. rpm773 says:

    “It’s a willful attempt to evade the tax that is in Massachusetts,” says State Senator James Timilty to WBZ-TV

    Well, get out there do what you legislators do. Write some laws to extend the tax onto the machines. Or unpacked tobacco. Or rolling papers. Make some money.

    This Timilty fellow doesn’t sound like he’s got what it takes to be a state legislator from Taxachusetts.

  12. lupis42 says:

    As an MA resident, I follow the examples set by my esteemed legislators, and buy my liquor and other big ticket items in NH (no sales tax, no hooch tax), register my boat in RI (ok, I would if I had one, that excise tax is a killer), and use every connection I have to avoid every fee I can.


    Sin taxes are one of the most egregious examples of holier-than-thou assholes trying to force their own values on the rest of us.

    • hmburgers says:

      Each move I make brings me closer to NH… I started off at 50-60 miles, and I’m just a shade under 20… if it weren’t for my wife not wanting to be far from the city we’d already be there.

      I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life, so frankly this shit doesn’t even really affect me… but I know how it feels to be taxed up the ass for someone else’s benefit and that’s exactly what is happening here.

      • frank64 says:

        Yes, I think of it is asking someone else to pay for my expenses, or on the other end, me paying for someone else’s. I don’t think either one is fair.

      • yurei avalon says:

        Oh sure, we don’t have state income tax or sales tax here in NH but you can expect to be nickled and dimed to death instead. My ’10 Focus cost over $300 to register last year (My grandfather’s ’09 F150 costs him over $600 to register and I know someone with an older model heavy duty “business” F350 that costs them over $1k to register), the property tax in most cities and towns is out of site, and anything that the state can slap an “environmental tax” on, such as motor oil or exhaust put out by your car when it has to be idled for diagnostics at a mechanic’s they will.

        We have meals tax to the tune of 9%, hotel tax at around 8% and cell phone bills run somewhere around 12% or so I am guessing and I’m sure there are other things I don’t even know about because I’m not the one that pays the utilities etc for my household.

        And what do we get in return? No trash pick up in a lot of towns, crappy schools, even crappier roads, limited emergency services, horrible snow plowing depending on where you live, limited amount of street lights on roads.

        We’re not as tax free as everyone believes we are :/

        On the subject of cigarettes, my stepdad has been rolling his own at home for years now using a small, inexpensive rolling machine he purchased. Can’t people do that themselves if these store machines get shut down? Furthermore, why isn’t the government trying to tax people in their homes doing basically the same thing as the stores?

        He rolls his own because 1. they’re cheaper 2. they have less chemicals in them, are less addictive for him and he smokes a lot less using the raw tobacco because he doesn’t feel the ‘need’ for them as much as the commercial ones. Win/win all around as far as I’m concerned if he can’t manage to quit. He also smokes a pipe.

    • MJDickPhoto says:

      dang, the boat is longer then my house by 8 foot, and wider by 1 foot.

      true that’s only 230 square foot more, but elected officials boat being larger then my house…….. I’m in the wrong business I think.

  13. hmburgers says:

    Dear Senator Timilty,

    Stop whining and try to change the law if you care so much…

    A Masshole.

    • magnetic says:

      I hate it when politicians complain about how there’s nothing they can do about something the government is doing wrong. You’re in a better position to do something than I am. If the job is too hard for you, you should let someone else do it.

  14. viper2000 says:

    So, how are they, in the words of James Timilty, evading taxes?
    Back when I used to smoke, I smoked “roll your owns” from time to time, yes it was cheaper, you know why it was cheaper? The government, state and fed, taxed loose tobacco at a different rate compared to prepackaged cigarettes.
    I was still paying taxes for every bit of tobacco I bought, just a lot less than someone who bought marlboros and the like.
    Granted, I live in Montana, so things might be (probably are) saner here regarding the taxation of tobacco.

  15. Tim says:

    I think there should be taxes on the rolling machines, rolling papers and/or tobacco. But if the current tax is only on prepared cigarettes, no, it shouldn’t apply until the law is changed.

  16. El_Fez says:

    Vaguely related aside: just the other day, for the first time in my life, I bought cigarettes! Now mind you, I’m not actually smoking them, just using them as props in photography – but now I can be outraged along with the rest of these people!

    Rage against the machine! Rargh!

    • Applekid ‚îÄ‚îÄ‚î¨ Ôªø„Éé( „Çú-„Çú„Éé) says:

      I bought a pack of cigs when I turned 21 as part of a dating strategy. The idea is that I could pop them in front of me at the bar and it might encourage conversation.

      Evidently, I’m repulsive enough that it never worked and I never gave away any of them.

  17. Cat says:


    The federal government has set taxes at different levels for differing products.

    Cigarettes are taxed highest.
    Tobacco for rolling your own cigarettes is next highest.
    Pipe tobacco is taxed the least.

    Then states set their own *additional* taxes.

    So, in order to pay the least for cigarettes, you must:

    1. order “smooth pipe tobacco” online.
    2. order tubes and rolling machine online SEPARATELY from your smooth pipe tobacco. Most online vendors won’t let you order both pipe tobacco and tubes in the same order, to avoid the whole taxation issue.


    3. e-cigarettes. No tobacco tax on these products.

    This is not tax evasion in any way, shape, or form. Questions? Refer to my quote from Judge Learned Hand in response to comment #1.

    • Jules Noctambule says:

      Several friends of mine have figured out the ultimate way to beat all tobacco taxes — they quit smoking. One of ’em just bought himself a (used) car with the money he stashed away over a year; said seeing that physically represent what he’d been spending on smokes was a real eye-opener.

      • captadam says:

        This is true. It’s one thing to complain if you pick up the habit under one tax structure and THEN have additional taxes levied on your habit. I might be a little more sympathetic to that argument. But, to start smoking when you KNOW what the tax structure is and THEN to complain about the taxes is more than a little stupid.

      • YouDidWhatNow? says:

        That is, ostensibly, the ultimate goal of said tax. To make it so painful to pay for cigarettes that you just quit.

        Of course…consider this for a moment: tomorrow, miraculously, every smoker in America quits cold-turkey. And stays that way. The tobacco industry shrivels and dies instantly.

        …then our elected officials, instead of declaring victory over lung cancer, start freaking right the f%ck out about “OMG what are we going to do without those billions in tax dollars?”

        • hmburgers says:

          It’s already happening here in MA… I’ve seen news stories about the depleating revenues from alchohol and tobacco because people are either consuming less or finding ways to avoid the tax.

          The solution has been to raise fees–I just paid $25 to get a “duplicate registration” for my car… it’s a link that they show you online to let you print your registration… it’s a money grab pure and simple, the cost to the state to implement that system is trivial.

          They’re also pushing to open three new casinos… the vice that hasn’t been chopped at the knees yet is gambling…

        • lawnmowerdeth says:

          And don’t forget SCHIP, the expanded insurance program for children signed by Obama and paid for by raising the taxes on tobacco to their current astronomical level.

      • Cat says:

        I agree 100%. But it’s not at all easy to quit – so I’ve used #3, e-cigarettes. And I’ve seen big-time savings from just that.

        Hopefully, I’ll wean myself off them and be totally nicotine free.

  18. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    Billions of years ago, when I was in college, I bought a really cool cigarette roller…it has a flip top with a bit of cloth and some clever levers that allow you to use the tobacco you store in it and a rolling paper to pop out a freshly-rolled cig anytime you want one.

    Never dawned on me that the total cost of me rolling my own would be taxed a lot less. I wanted it because it was cool, and rolling with your own fresh tobacco makes for an infinitely better cigarette. Granted that I am not, and have never been, a regular smoker, the thing’s practically still new…and it really hasn’t even been used much in the past 10 years or so.

    But the point is that *if* people are buying their own tobacco, papers, filters, etc. to roll their own cigarettes solely because it’s taxed less…then that’s their prerogative. They invest their time in making them as a tradeoff for the lower tax. The law is the law…tax laws included. And no one is breaking, or even bending, any tax laws here. So I invite the involved lawmakers to STFU and GTFO.

    • Dallas_shopper says:


    • Applekid ‚îÄ‚îÄ‚î¨ Ôªø„Éé( „Çú-„Çú„Éé) says:

      I’m not a smoker, but I’d wager the better cigarette was because you used real tobacco and not that reconstituted stuff that’s in all major mass-produced cigarettes.

      • Dallas_shopper says:

        99% of the time, rollies > pre-rolled.

        I’d roll my own if it didn’t take me a friggin’ hour to do it each time. I suck at hand-rolling.

    • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

      College? Yeah, I’m sure that was used for ‘tobacco’.

      • nickmoss says:

        I hate rolling machines. Would have skated right through customs in Halifax if the inspector hadn’t heard it rattle in the shoe in my suitcase. Got me some time in the city jail in 1971. Also lost an oz. Learned to roll my own after that. Stupid machine.

      • YouDidWhatNow? says:

        I think you’d likely be dead if you used that particular device to roll joints. What comes out is a cigarette with probably twice the volume of tobacco compared to a premade. Fatty indeed.

        • nickmoss says:

          You have to remember that the amount of THC in an oz. of MJ today is at least 20 times that of the 60s and 70s. The stuff we used to smoke couldn’t even be sold today it was so bad.

  19. kranky says:

    In my state, a pack of smokes is about $6 but if you roll them yourself it’s $2.50. The store that lets you use their machines will not help you in any way. They are almost fanatical about making sure that YOU are making them. You weigh the tobacco, you blend it the way you want, you load the machine, you unload the machine.

  20. Straspey says:

    The whole issue of exorbitant cigarette taxation is somewhat complicated.

    Assuming *most* of us accept the effects which cigarettes have on a smoker’s health, the taxation issue extends its serpentine heads into a number of areas, such as –

    Trying to “encourage” people to quit smoking by making them pay a penalty (tax) on the commodity – ergo, hoping to make it eventually too expensive for most people to smoke.

    Of course, this raises the issue of government intruding on an individuals “right” to smoke cigarettes if s/he wishes to do so – especially if they are aware of, and are willing to accept, the possible sever consequences.

    However –

    Then there’s the public health issue:

    I don’t smoke, but I do pay taxes – just like everybody else – and a portion of my tax dollars are used to finance government sponsored health programs and public hospitals, which may end up taking care of lung-cancer patients who do not have the resources to pay for their own medical treatment.

    So – why should I have to pay your medical bills for a disease you contracted as a result of you exercising your right to use a product which you knew, going in, could possibly cause you to get sick and die ?

    And finally – it seems to me that the people who use those fancy rolling machines are just as interested in the cachet and “cool factor”. If all you really want to do is beat the tax, then go to a head shop, buy some rolling paper, and learn how to roll your own.

    Yeah – I know – they end up looking like a joint.

    And ? So what ?

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      Two questions…

      1) If a smoker can show proof of insurance, should he be exempted from tobacco taxes?

      2) What percentage of tobacco taxes go solely towards public health programs?

      • Cat says:

        What percentage of tobacco taxes go solely towards public health programs?

        Most of it goes into the general fund. Because it’s not at all about discouraging smoking. It’s about MO’ MONEY.

        • StarKillerX says:

          Exactly, ever increasing tobacco taxes are not about getting people to quit, it’s about getting people used to paying them so enough people continue smoking to ensure the government gets large piles of money from the sales of cigarettes.

    • StarKillerX says:


      The financial aspect of the public health issue has been severely overblown by politicians more interested in keeping the tax dollars flowing in then dealing with reality.

      Years ago a study in Canada showed that the average smoker cost less over their life in healthcare then non-smokers, as they tended to die at a younger age and thus never got to be extremely elderly, and that is where the bulk of healthcare dollars are spent. Not exactly an endorsement but it’s surely at odds with the common perception.

      Government at various levels makes more “profits” off of smokers then any tobacco company could even dream of and yet those same politicians who love spending the tax dollars will rage on about “evil tobacco companies!”

      • Straspey says:

        Your points are interesting and valid.

        I would only be quick to point out that Canada has socialized health care – so a study such as this would be critical to their system. And I would be very curious to know how the Canadian gov’t taxes Cigarettes.

        Also, if – as you and others point out – our tax on Cigarettes is essentially a huge cash machine which generates more “profits” for the gov’t than it dies for the tobacco companies – then why are so many tax dollars spent on anti-smoking campaigns ?

        Here in NY City, the public health system will provide nicotine patches to just about anybody, simply for the asking.

        Is this just a “wink-wink nudge-nudge” attempt at political correctness, while realizing the relapse rate for smokers who try to quit is very hight ?

        I don’t know – it seems a bit pernicious to me. But thanks for making your points – they are well taken.

        • StarKillerX says:

          Your exactly right, and that is why the study was undertaken, and then as soon as the results were published they were soundly attacked and rarely mentioned since governments, and the politicians that run them, aren’t going to let a little think like facts kill off their golden goose.

          Many of the government run “stop smoking” programs are paid for by tobacco companies themselves with funds coerced during the whole “tabacco settlement” shakedown the states did many years ago.

          Beyond that, don’t forget there are various health related agencies in the multiple layers of government we while they might work to curb smoking that doesn’t mean the politician in Albany NY or Washington DC really cares about it as opposed to just using it to rake in more money to spend.

      • LorgSkyegon says:

        The Czech Republic did a study as well and found the same thing

      • MrEvil says:

        Don’t forget that people who die early die before they can collect Social Security or before they had drawn as much as they had paid into Social Security. My grandfather died at Age 64 and didn’t draw a cent out of Social Security, but he paid into Social Security all his life. If anything we should encourage smokers to smoke more so that us non-smokers have a chance at Social Security.

    • Supernautus says:

      My hand rolled cigarettes don’t end up looking like joints, they just look like filterless cigarettes.

    • smo0 says:

      Replace ciggarettes with obesity and fatty foods there… and you’ve got the real issue at hand…
      there are considerably less smokers than there were 10 years ago…..
      they’ve just replaced it with food.

      Honestly, smoking really only causes a few complications if you’re one of the unlucky… however, overeating tends to do a lot in a greater number of areas.

  21. dilbert69 says:

    I think people should take advantage of the loophole while it exists, but I also think the state should close the loophole by raising the tax on loose tobacco to a level similiar to that on cigarettes.

  22. Piddles says:

    Call the waaambulance. People have found yet another way around a MA sin tax. It’s not their fault that the tax is on cigarettes and not tobacco. It is always ironic when MA complains about people not paying unfair taxes. I wonder if they appreciate the irony.

  23. captadam says:

    Easy: change the law to include taxes on loose tobacco.

    Not a hard concept.

  24. FrugalFreak says:

    The tax is on ready to smoke cigarettes. Someone has an anti-smoking agenda here. If you tax it to heaven, I’ll find some other tobacco like plant and still waif the smoke through the air.

    You may as well find another battle.

  25. kobresia says:

    Maybe they should just dispense with the theatrics and ban the coffin nails once and for all, then we can move on to a thriving black market for them, just like almost all other vices.

  26. Tiercelet says:

    Whatever. Implement a 10-cent-per-cancer-stick tax on the use of these machines at public establishments, go home early and have some martinis, done.

    It’s called plugging a loophole.

  27. Tegan says:

    I quit smoking a couple months ago and reading this thread is making me crave a smoke so hardcore :(

    On a side note, sin taxes should be abolished anyways. Please do not legislate morality.

    • FrugalFreak says:

      But then what would the nannies have to do? Think of the busybodies.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        Without the nanny state, I might accidentally marry a dude, light my house with the wrong type of bulbs, ride a bike without a helmet, or buy health insurance with too high of a deductible.

        • Tegan says:

          And don’t forget, you’d actually have to raise your children yourself instead of letting the government do it for you.

          Okay, okay, I swear I’m done for today. Stupid government.

  28. maruawe says:

    The roll-your-own should NOT be taxed as cigarettes as it is not cigarettes.. States are unwilling to accept the fact that there are varying types of tobacco that people use.. States should not have one tax for all tobacco products….And if a business charges a person to roll their own cigarettes that is a customer service not a product–and it just shows you that business people are smarter than politicians and it will continue to be so for many, many years….. If the government (state and federal ) ran the country as a business they would not have the problems that exist today at both levels of government…..

  29. Thunderchyld says:

    Geez, I thought every smoker knew about this “loophole”. If you buy loose tobacco and roll your own, be it by hand, with a machine at home, or a machine at the store, you’ll pay a lot less because of the difference in taxes. The difference in taxation stems from the fact that loose tobacco is taxed based on weight, where cigs are taxed on a per unit-dose basis.

    I’m not sure how the machine use works in MA, but here in WI we have a bunch of stores using the large scale RYO machine that produces a carton in about 8-10 minutes. Only used one once, to pick up a carton for an xmas gift, but the clerk was quite strict about only being able to tell me how to operate it, I had to do all the work. This is because the stores are charging you to rent the machine, so they are not the manufacturer.

    IIRC, the $34 carton broke down to $13 for tobacco, $5 for tubes, $9 for RYO taxes, and $6 for machine rental.

  30. Wireless Joe says:

    Loose tobacco should have a higher tax on it; I doubt most of what’s being hand-rolled is being used with a filter, which means it’s worse for you than regular cigarettes, which probably leads to worse health problems (and higher medical costs to be picked up by the state).

  31. Matthew PK says:

    Nobody owes a duty to maximize treasury tax revenue….

  32. quail says:

    There are people out their growing their own tobacco, curing it, and smoking it. Some have even created co-ops to share the machinery. No money changes hands for the product and they’re not paying taxes except for the sales tax when they buy the machines & the tobacco seed. Wonder how long before governments will start going after them for avoidance.

  33. maxhobbs says:

    I actually give props to the OP for using “loose” and “lose” correctly! I think when people use loose when they mean to say lose is the one thing that makes me grind my teeth more than anything. So good job OP.

  34. NumberSix says:

    Yeah, this a pretty blatant tax dodge. Especially since they are automating it. As much as I hate smoking and the industry, I don’t think rolling them by hand would be the same thing.

  35. Chrisnif says:

    I’ve been smoking RYO cigarettes. I like them as they taste better and I feel less addicted (I can go a lot longer between if I’m in a no smoking situation). Now the store I go to it’s $15 per carton OR I can pay an additional $5 and buy cartons that are pre-rolled – but to get around any special taxes they let college kids roll them and store them there for $1 (so the kids make $4 a carton under the table, and the good ones can roll 3 cartons an hour)

  36. dush says:

    People who give to charities so they can itemize are just willfully attempting to avoid tax. Punish them!

  37. Costner says:

    There are so many tax loopholes that people take advantage of, I’m not sure this is really a huge issue.

    Just like firearms… there is something like a 10% federal firearms tax in addition to local sales taxes. So many people who are buying something like an AR-15 will just buy an upper one day, then go back and buy a lower the next day. These are components of firearms, but not complete guns… so there is no 10% tax. On a $1800 AR-15, that is $180 saved.

    Granted when it comes to cigarettes I doubt all that many people will take advantage of the tax savings. I hate to generalize or stereotype, but honestly… the typical smoker is too lazy and/or too ignorant to bother to roll their own. They would much rather stop at their local c-store and buy a pack of Marlboro lights on the way home from a hard day at the auto parts store.

    There are exceptions to every rule obviously, but when you read statistics that show the higher education level someone obtains the less likely they are to smoke and the more money someone makes the less likely they are to smoke it stands to reason that the fact the typical smoker is uneducated and underemployed is probably contributed to the fact that they won’t be looking to roll their own for the tax savings anytime soon.

    Yea that might sound cold, but it is also a reality.

  38. pgr says:

    Cigs shout be taxed at $1 each state and federal, $2 total. Then we wouldn’t have to put up with the stink and filth they cause, not to mention the fools standing around outside the door having one.
    The only good thing about cigs is the abusers die young!

  39. pgr says:

    I moved from being a life long Mass resident to life in NH and I can tell you I’d move back to MA in a heartbeat. The grass always looks greener on the other side.

    NH has just a many taxes as MA you just don’t see them till they nail you. No sales tax? I’d rather pay 8% sales tax and not have to pay $2 every time I leave or enter NH. You think your real estate taxes are high – move to NH they are at least 50% higher than MA and you get shit for it (including crappy schools). No excise tax? Think again, they don’t call it an excise tax but it cost me just as much to register my car in NH as it did in MA when I include the town taxes in and insurance isn’t any big savings either, plus you pay for broken glass in NH.
    I buy my wine in MA because it’s usually cheaper and I make my own beer.
    Be glad you are fortunate enough to live in MA it rates 28th out of 50 when you compare the tax burden to the rest of the USA.

  40. menty666 says:

    As long as we’re making wacky arguments about depriving MA it’s tax revenue, if I stopped smoking, would I then be taxed for cigarettes I would have smoked had I stayed addicted because I’m now depriving them of that revenue?

    God forbid I died, they’d really want their money then.

  41. yabdor says:

    Tax avoidance is completely legal. And what’s more to the point is that the Federal Courts have so in so many words.

  42. Unicorn-Chaser says:

    “It’s a willful attempt to evade the tax that is in Massachusetts,” says State Senator James Timilty to WBZ-TV. “We should shut them down.”

    I think you meant to say “lawful” instead of “willful”….you fucking twit.

  43. teqjack says:

    No, this is bogus (and started in NYC, which to my mind settles it) The relecant taxes have been paid.

    I suppose it will be extended so that if you buy a bookcase from IKEA you will pay tax on what you would pay for an assembled one at Sears.


  44. BorkBorkBork says:

    Who is more addicted: smokers to their smokes, or politicians to their taxes?

  45. Robert Nagel says:

    There’s nothing new under the sun. When I was in college in the late 60’s many of the smokers rolled their own with little cigarette rolling machines. It took time, but that is a real cheap commodity with college students.

  46. Libertas says:

    I have a near life time supply of premium pipe tobaccos (25lbs) canned in the basement. Bought it all before all the bullshit taxes started in earnest in 2008. I’d say I’m set for a while.

  47. DFManno says:

    You walk into the store with money. You walk out with cigarettes. Thus, the store sold you cigarettes. You owe cigarette taxes. QED

    • flychinook says:

      If I go to walmart (shudder) and buy ground beef, bread, and a barbeque, they have NOT sold me a hamburger, even if I cook it in the parking lot (or in the store, for that matter). Nor have they sold me a haircut if I buy clippers and use them in the bathroom.

  48. ancientone567 says:

    So smokers do something smart and legal and you want to take it away. lol BTW I am not a smoker but used to be 7 years ago.

  49. AEN says:

    I “willfully” avoid Massachusetts taxes by not living there.

  50. cardo says:

    Do I see weekly home get togethers with a couple cases of beer and guys hanging out rolling smokes for the next week? A guys answer to the make up or candle parties? Hmmm, I wonder how much those machines cost….

  51. pittstonjoma says: