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Roll-your-own cigarettes will continue to carry a lower cost for the consumer. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Roll-your-own cigarettes will continue to carry a lower cost for the consumer. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)


Judge Blocks Tax On Roll Your Own Cigarettes

Lesley McClurg

Smokers and sellers of roll–your–own cigarettes got good news on Monday. A Washington judge blocked a law that would have increased the price of each cigarette by 15 cents. But it's not good news for the state budget. The new regulation was projected to bring in at least $12 million over the next year.


Currently you can walk out of a tobacco shop with a pack of roll–your–own cigarettes for about $5.50. A pack of Marlboros will put you back almost twice that much. That's because tobacco shops don't charge the same tax on roll–your–own cigarettes as they would for pre–packaged cigarettes.

David Harkins from the Attorney General's Office says that's not fair.

Harkins: "The definition of a cigarette is any roll for smoking made wholly or in part of tobacco with a wrapper or a cover made of paper. So consumers that go in and buy these cigarettes from cigarette making machines, they're already liable for the tax. They should be paying the cigarette tax."

Earlier this year the Legislature passed a law that would have taxed roll–your–own cigarettes just like retail cigarettes. But opponents say the new law is unconstitutional because it's charging a new tax.

Weiss: "It was an entirely new scheme that was created to reach this area that was previously not taxed and not regulated by the state."

That's Chris Weiss. He's the lead attorney representing tobacco shops that sell your roll–your–own products. They argue that the new law would be bad for business because it would raise the price of a pack of roll–your–own cigarettes by three dollars. He says the new law should have been subject to the required 2/3 majority vote that's necessary in Washington to pass any new tax.

The new law did not pass the Senate with a 2/3 vote. The court agreed with Weiss.

The price of roll–your–own cigarettes was supposed to rise on July 1. But for now, the price will stay the same.

The state is considering appealing the decision.

For KUOW News, I'm Lesley McClurg.

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