New York City Sues Cigarette Shop For Selling Low-Tax “Roll Your Own” Tobacco

New York City officials have filed a lawsuit against Chinatown and Staten Island cigarette shops that were caught selling “roll your own” cigarettes to customers.

Both “Island Smokes” stores were allowing customers to roll their own cigarettes which in turn allowed them to operate in a “grey area” in which no cigarette package taxes needed to be collected and they are only required to charge the lower “loose tobacco” tax. By allowing customers to roll their own cigarette packs the store was able to charge less than $5 per pack.

Under city and state laws the story should be charging $5.85 per pack in cigarette taxes which pushes the cost of most cigarette packs in New York City well above $10.

According to the city’s lawsuit:

“By selling illegally low-priced cigarettes defendants not only interfere with the collection of city cigarette taxes, they also impair the city’s smoking cessation programs and impair individual efforts at smoking reduction, thereby imposing higher health care costs on the city and injuring public health.”

Arguing for his clients choice to sell tobacco based products attorney Jonathan Behrins told the New York Times:

“We are not producing cigarettes for resale … We are selling the contents that produce the cigarette … and it’s up to the user to make them.”

Mr. Behrins claims the process is like “making your own beer.”

The city says it’s not quite what the cigarette chain would have people believe:

“When you go to a salad bar, they sell you a salad, not a salad assembly process” and “When customers walk out of these stores, they have finished cigarettes and they bought them in those stores. The stores also have signage that calls them a discount cigarettes shop.”

Currently customers pay $6 for a tin of cigarettes while refills with the same tin cost just $4.50.

According to shop owners their tobacco products which include regular, menthol and other options are “all natural” with non of the additives found in premade cigarettes.

Do you believe the store is skirting established New York City taxes by selling tobacco in the way they are?

[Image via ShutterStock.com]