Monday, 10 October 2011

DIY Ciggies, US Style

Good news from the US, especially since it highlights the absurd lengths that governments will go to in protecting their bludgeoning of the public at the altar of health purity.

A Dane County judge has decided to allow store owners to keep their "Roll your Own" cigarette machines running for now.

The state had ordered businesses to shut those machines down until they obtained a permit to manufacture them. In response, store owners filed a lawsuit. They said they should not be considered manufacturers because customers make their own products.

Stephanie Marquis, spokesperson with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, said, "We are disappointed with the court's decision, but we remain dedicated to enforcing our tobacco laws and regulations fairly and equitably."
This concerns a growing yank business in renting cigarette rolling machines to customers who buy their own loose tobacco at lesser tax rates, and make their own 'ready-mades' in the store. It's estimated that there are around 600 stores like this in the US, in 31 states - this video from last year gives you an idea of how the whole thing works.

The US government is a trifle irked that their differential on tax between loose tobacco and ready-mades is being exploited, so they attempted to suggest that those who rent the machines should be liable to the same licences and taxes as cigarette manufacturers.

On that basis, presumably businesses that host ATM machines should be required to fulfill the same operating criteria and financial guarantees as banks, and MOT testing stations should be licensed as food and drink establishments for allowing you to make your own cup of tea from a machine.

Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so does the (cough) benevolent state despise anyone who finds a way round their crippling taxes.

As a result, this battle has been to-ing and fro-ing for just over a year, the aggressor always being the state in ordering machines to be unplugged as a continual policy of harassment. Business owners then file court proceedings, a judge slaps down the order, and the machines start running again ... but with large queues due to the backlog.

As a consumer product, tobacco is very good at exposing these abuses of governmental power. In this case, the bullying of small businesses is compunded by the fact that the state is seeking to impose further taxes - and charges by way of their own manufactured permits - on a product from which they are already receiving tax receipts of their own choosing. Which, of course, is a theft from business in itself, as I've mentioned before.

It also starkly illustrates how anti-social public bodies are in justifying their own existence, and the fact that they no longer serve and support the taxpayers who fund their salaries. Instead they actively seek to restrict voluntary activity.

You'll be hard pressed to find as perfect an example of the tail wagging the dog as with the costly - and counter-productive to quiet enjoyment of legally supplied goods - charade surrounding roll your own machines.

Well done, judge, let's hope the machines keep on churning out cheaper smokes for as long as they get up the tax-spongers' noses.


westcoast2 said...

In a local village nearby a new tobacco shop has opened. It sells loose tobacco (choose your own mix) and then tubes it up for you, at a saving to ready made.

It is good to see that the Wisonsin shop, with a similar idea, is able to carry on.

Dick Puddlecote said...

I did wonder if the idea had been taken up over here. Very interesting, wc2. If it takes off there could be some fun ahead. ;)

smokervoter said...

Although every now and then I know it's kinda' hard to tell - Yankee ingenuity is still alive and well. The Elfin Safety First mentality ushered in by the US Tobacco Prohibition movement has all but quashed the entrepreneurial spirit. These shops are proof that the heart of 'find a need and fill it' is still beating ever so faintly.

Go for it.