It’s fast and it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than buying smokes already packaged for sale.
That’s the selling point behind machines that allow smokers to roll their own cigarettes at a pace of one every three seconds and at a cost of about one-third that of packaged cigarettes.
“It’s a no-brainer,” said Brian McIssac of Patriot Convenience and Tobacco in Brockton.
The new machines, like the two at Patriot Convenience’s stores on Main and Centre streets, allow customers to pack and roll a carton of cigarettes themselves, doing in a matter of minutes what used to take three hours, McIssac said.
But new proposals from state and federal lawmakers – including a $25,000 annual fee per machine on smoke shop owners – threaten to stymie the surging popularity of the machines by reclassifying the retailers who own them as “cigarette manufacturers,” subjecting them also to hefty taxes and health code regulations.
In his fiscal year 2013 budget proposal, Gov. Deval Patrick recommended raising the state’s cigarette excise tax by 50 cents to $3.01 per pack. Currently, a pack of 20 cigarettes costs more than $8 in Massachusetts. A carton of 10 packs, or 200 cigarettes, typically costs nearly $80. The cost to roll 200 cigarettes using the roll-your-own machines can be as low as $27 to $30.
The proposal that matters most to the 28 Massachusetts retailers with the automated rolling machines – there are two in Brockton and one in Quincy – is the $25,000 licensing fee on every in-store machine.
McIssac scoffed at the idea that what customers do in his store make him a “manufacturer.”
“People have been rolling their own (cigarettes) for hundreds of years,” he said.
The cigarette machines, produced by an Ohio-based company called Roll-Your-Own (RYO) Machines automate the rolling process by grinding and packing tobacco into 200 cigarette tubes in less than nine minutes.
For smokers who roll their own cigarettes by using a handheld, or low-volume, machine, the RYO station can save them several hours of rolling time.
“I think they (the high-volume machines) are pretty nifty if you have the $30 or $40 to throw down right away,” Autumn Owens of Pembroke said while shopping at Brennan’s Smoke Shop in Pembroke.
Brian Barros of Patriot Convenience said he’s seeing more interest.
“It’s getting more and more popular,” he said.
“They like the quality,” added McIssac.
But not everyone thinks they’re nifty. Lawmakers across the nation, including members of the U.S. Senate, are challenging roll-your-own shops, accusing them of capitalizing on an opportunity to make smoking cheaper.