Lawsuit likely over roll-your-own smokes tax in Washington

May 2, 2012

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The burgeoning roll-your-own cigarette industry in Washington is preparing to do legal battle against the state. Governor Chris Gregoire is expected to sign into law today a new tax on do-it-yourself smokes. That will likely trigger a lawsuit.

Perhaps it was the Great Recession. Just in the last two years, the roll-your-own or RYO cigarette industry has taken off in Washington. More than 60 smoke shops across the state now have machines that allow users to make their own cigarettes for about half the cost of a regular pack of smokes.

But this year Washington lawmakers passed legislation to stamp and tax RYOs more like regular cigarettes. Proponents view it as closing a loophole. But Joe Baba, a pioneer in the industry, is urging Governor Gregoire to veto the measure.

“Any time that a consumer is asked to spend time and energy and effort to make their own product, they should have a savings," Baba said.

Baba warns the tax will put roll-your-own shops out of business. He says he’s ready to go to court to challenge the tax if the governor signs it into law as expected. [I’m Austin Jenkins in Olympia.]

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