Valley tobacco shop owners blame Obama for snuffing out business

By Jim Cross, KTAR


(Photo: Jim Cross/KTAR)

PHOENIX — Rami Sweis with Big Bear Tobacco in Phoenix said a tiny  amendment buried in the federal transportation bill signed Friday by the  president could leave him no choice but to shut down the roll-your-own  machines.

“They’re about $32,000 a piece. I personally have, with my partner, 14  machines that we invested in,” Sweis said.

His business, and about 30 others in Arizona, feature large machines  customers can use to create cigarettes from loose tobacco and empty  paper tubes purchased in the store.

But the new transportation bill included  an amendment that requires such businesses to get manufacturing  permits, put health warnings on packages and pay additional taxes on the  cigarettes those machines produce. As a result, roll-your-own  prices will soar and customers were upset Friday.

“I probably won’t go back to the manufacturers that are  pushing this through,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sweis said customers will be forced to purchase  cigarettes at convenience stores or other retail outlets at two or three times  the price. He will have to lay off workers, he said, but he can stay in  business.

“It will most likely shut down the stores that are only established because  of the machines.”

Jim Cross, Reporter

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