KENNEWICK, Wash.-- The federal transportation bill passed by congress last week could close down roll your own cigarettes stores for good.
There's a provision in the bill that would force them to pay a tax they've been avoiding up until now. The federal transportation bill passed by congress includes a provision that defines roll your own cigarette stores as manufacturers because they use machines to roll the cigarettes. If the president signs the bill into law, those stores will be required to pay manufacturer taxes, just like the big-name cigarette companies.
The Washington State Department of Revenue spokesperson, Mike Gowrylow, says they stand firm that these store should pay up.
"It's our position as well as the federal government that what's happening in these stores is cigarettes manufacturing no matter what you might call it," says Gowrylow.
Machines like the ones at the 1/2 Price Smokes shop in Kennewick can make about two hundred cigarettes in about ten minutes. The government is now arguing they should pay the same taxes as big tobacco, which would likely force them out of business.
"What congress has done has define them as manufacturers so now they need a federal license and essentially it closes this loophole. It prevents them from selling cigarettes without being licensed as a cigarette manufacturer," says Gowrylow.
The manager of 1/2 Price Smokes, Joe Neal, fears President Obama will sign the provision into law and leave them no choice but to close.
Neal blames lobbyists saying he thinks they worked their ways to get it snuck into the transportation bill
"It just all fell apart because of legislation and basically big tobacco. They shut the little man down," says Neal.
The store is now preparing for the worst.
"It's sad we had to lay ten people off. I don't even know where my job stands," says Neal.
Neal says if they have to lose the machines because of high fees then the owner will try to sell different tobacco products like cigars and hookas just to stay in business.