| We are pleased to announce that, while this issue is a little late in
coming, the contents inside we hope you will feel are well worth the wait. In addition to
some great reviews and updates on some highly awaited products that will surely give the
RYO/MYO market a real boost, our editorial this time concerns a rather bold experiment
undertaken by the staff of this magazine. We urge you to read the Editorial
section, especially if you are a retailer or are thinking about getting into the retail
tobacco business. We get quite a bit of e-mail from folks who would like to do just that.
It seems that many people, after experiencing the superiority of MYO smoking, feel it has
a real future and seems like a reasonable-risk business to enter. To those future
entrepreneurs, we dedicate this issue's editorial. Also, we take a look this time at a
true pioneer in the tobacco industry, the renowned Peter Stokkebye whose organization is
responsible for some of the most consistently delicious rolling (and pipe) tobaccos on the
planet. Also, our friend Mark Ryan at D&R Tobacco has taken a rather large plunge into
the manufacturing world with a private label line of filtered tubes by the name of
Windsail. Of course, there are papers galore from HBI and rollers from Chills that make
cone shaped cigarettes (yeah, they actually smoke great) and more recent information on
the new, improved (if that is possible) line of Supermatic products. Check out the tobacco
section for a tour of a company taking MYO into the big time visibility of Cheap Cigarette
Be sure to visit our Buyer's Guide by clicking on the graphic link at left. You will find many new things to enjoy. In this special section, you will find all of the bargains and interesting items we come across or that our readers tell us about. The section will be continually updated as new information arrives and, as there are literally hundreds of unusual, practical and hard to find items in the world of RYO, it is our intent to bring them to your attention with links to make your explorations easier. This section remains a big hit with our readers and to make it increasingly effective, we need your continued input. So retailers, manufacturers, distributors and readers take notice. If you find any interesting items or bargains that you feel worthy of sharing with your fellow readers (and us, of course), please e-mail RYO. Everyone concerned will appreciate the benefit derived from the vast resources our readership can provide. Now let's get to the good stuff.
There have been some truly momentous occurrences in the political tobacco arena as well. A huge tax increase was, by decree of the California State Department of Revenue (Board of Equalization), dropped on the people of that state with no legislative oversight and no public debate. The tax was levied on all smokeless tobacco products in graduated scales that, on some products, reach as high as nearly 500%. We're told that one small can of Copenhagen Snuff may cost up to $17 under this new tax attack. While we are not fans in the least of smokeless tobaccos and chews, and do agree that too often these products find themselves in the hands of the underage user, we feel that if a state wishes to curtail the use of a product, they should have the courage AND obligation to enact taxes after convincing the elected representatives of the state who are directly accountable to their constituents to pass such regulations in a fair and honest manner. Or, make the product illegal altogether. We would not be surprised if the irritation that chewing tobacco causes the lining of the mouth can create medical problems, but there is no evidence that sucking on cinnamon sticks or those ultra-tart candies the kids love won't cause just as many problems if usage is taken to the extreme. And certainly the alcohol consumed at all those state functions that the taxpayers of California seem willing to pay for is not an exercise in health management either. State departments rarely have the courage to use such straightforward methods as public hearings and this should be a wake up call to the voters of California that they really have little or no control over their state government. This especially applies to those appointees who take such power for granted, often to the point of megalomania. Now, smokeless tobacco has relatively few friends out there and it has become a particularly noxious looking habit with all the spitting and tell-tale bumps under the lips of athletes at all level of competition. We have chosen to not review to this point smokeless, although in our next issue, we will take a look at English Nasal Snuffs, a product I used to some degree several decades ago with no medial consequence except for a few sneezes, of course. Still, because of the immediately traceable area of disturbance that certain of these products cause (in other words mouth and lip cancers), it is far easier to attribute ill effects to these products than the inhaling of tobacco smoke. Still one must question the right of any government agency to tax what is perceived as a potentially dangerous product. If it is dangerous, it should be outlawed. The argument that certain products like liquor and tobacco cannot be made illegal is ludicrous. All that is needed is incontrovertible proof that said product is dangerous and the effects are universally demonstrable. The problem is that smoking and drinking, while they may have serious effects on some, are enjoyed by people who chose to, with a majority seemingly experiencing little or no ill effects at all. Smokeless may be different. If so, the state should protect its citizens, as it does from other poisons and proven dangerous chemicals, by limiting, supervising, or curtailing their use. Raising taxes as use prevention is a rather cold blooded, illogical, and unfair way to address deleting from our society those things that can be PROVEN to cause harm.
A lot of manufacturer and distributor reps for various brands of smokeless have already lost their territories as well as, in some cases, their jobs and quite frankly, the only thing gained will be that Californians who want these products will buy them online from out of state sources. Thus, as is usually the case, the state will lose nearly all revenue from smokeless unless they spend the billions of dollars necessary to police each and every mailbox in the state. And we would be very surprised if smokeless usage is reduced significantly. Even worse will be the state' s attempt to force out of state online/mail order retailers to divulge their client lists which, while the ALL of states would love to do this (for BOTH excise and sales tax revenues), the general public and businesses in particular will simply not stand for it. At least not without a lot of unemployed politicians after the next election.
Having lived in California for most of my life, I personally am grateful to have left a repressive society which languishes under the rule of inept uncreative, politicians and their lackeys. Institutionalized welfare-like employees of a state that fail to build power plants, or foresee the obvious ramifications of many of the ludicrous things they do, far outweigh the beauty and grandeur AND opportunity that was once synonymous with California. It has become a state whose citizens are so subservient and dependent on their government that said government has taken inordinate control of their personal lives, deciding rather arbitrarily which businesses get power during rolling blackouts and which legal products its citizens are allowed to use. Being a Democrat for most of my life, I reluctantly wish only the worst for Governor Davis and his jack-booted appointees in the coming election year. By the way, taxes on tobacco (55%) in general stayed about the same in California so there is no doubt that the state really targeted smokeless for extermination. The actual notice from the Excise Tax Division of the Board of Equalization below shows this lethal new tax structure:
However, rather than dwell on the ineptness of that rapidly decaying, perniciously overbearing state to the south of us, here in Oregon, some real positive history has been made. For the first time, as far as we know, in this country's history, a tobacco tax has been reduced. The Legislature of the State of Oregon recently, after much debate, passed a retrograde tax on cigars reducing in effect the tax on all cigars to $.50 per stick. This is incredible news for anyone who buys cigars whose wholesale cost is more than a buck a piece. The 65% tax on wholesale tobacco prices is still in effect but cigars alone benefit by the $.50 per stick cap. Basically, this means that a cigar that has a wholesale cost of $1 which would have cost $1.65 to the retailer, would now cost that retailer $1.50. Obviously, as the price of the cigar goes up, the effect is more dramatic. For a $10 wholesale cigar, rather than costing $16.50, a more reasonable $10.50 would be charged the retailer. The new tax on a box of such cigars would save the retailer, and thus, the consumer over $100. There was also a reported compromise 10% increase on packages of cigarettes. Taxes on these products we have no immediate problem with as packaged cigarettes were the cause of much of the grief suffered by the entire tobacco industry today. However, we still have trouble dealing with the ethical issue of punitive taxation.
These changes do not go into effect until January 2002, but the benefits and impact are more immediate than simply the cost saving nature of such a move by the Oregon Legislature. The striking fact is that citizens do indeed have the power to influence their elected officials even on a subject as controversial as tobacco. After all, the main interest for a career politician is re-election. Sure, there are public servants who deeply care about their constituency, but even they need re-election to foster their idealisms.
Before going further, it is important to note that this legislation, which started as HB-2074, was almost single-handedly crafted, fought for, and promoted by Jan Esler-Rowe, owner of Cascade Cigar & Tobacco. In fact, the title of this issue, "The South End of Power" relates to the immense power just one person, (with a lot of help from her husband, Steve, customers, friends, and other believers that she managed to organize in order to create an impressive write-in campaign), can wield. Bottom line: Consider the "Wag the Dog" scenario in reverse. It is the voter, the people themselves, that should and do in fact control what the government does. We need to be reminded of our considerable power occasionally and exercise it with far more abandon. We're the dog and our government should remember who the ass-end really is. If necessary, we'll explain it once again to them in November.
Now, Jan is an activist with a vested interest in the subject of cigars and has been carrying this fight to the politicians in Salem for many years. She is intelligent, strong, articulate and she does her homework. Her tireless efforts should be an inspiration to those who often feel un-empowered and at the mercy of seemingly indifferent government officials. Jan used her brains rather than rhetoric to win this fight. She made it clear from the very beginning that it was in the state's best interest (not just her own) to lower the tax on cigars as most of the possible revenue from these products was being lost to online, out-of-state retailers who are not subject to this tax. Her reasoning was seductively simple. It is better to get $.50 per stick than 65% of nothing. Very few Oregon residents who have any access to the internet, or who know cigars well enough to know of the myriad of other sources, were buying the smokes in-state. To be sure, cigar smokers are somewhat different than other smokers. They not only know what they like, but nearly all perceive themselves to some degree as connoisseurs of one kind or another. Further, they like a variety of brands, sizes and flavors. Ask most cigar smokers to describe the cigar they are smoking and you will get a 10 minute dissertation on the complex flavors and characteristics of nearly any good brand. Cigarette smokers rarely have much more to say other than they like or dislike it. Cigars are a hobby not to be taken for granted as some mindless obsession, so it is no wonder that users of these products are willing to invest a considerable amount of time in their search for the best possible prices for the sticks they love. Most packaged cigarette smokers buy their smokes at the market for convenience. You can't buy a good cigar there or much good rolling tobacco either for that matter. So it is no wonder that cigars are the subject of this first tax roll-back. Their user base is simply more proactive.
Much like cigar smokers (and pipe smokers), the roll your own or make your own tobacco enthusiast has far more experience with many different blends of tobacco. And they shop a lot on line as well. It is a shame therefore that taxes on rolling tobacco and pipe tobacco were not likewise considered for this reduction. However, the cigar tax reduction is a great first step and may be the largest step possible at one time. Nonetheless, we who are part of the RYO/MYO world need to take heed of Jan's success and begin to petition each of our state legislatures in much the same way. If you are in a high tobacco tax state you can bet that your state coffers are suffering because rolling tobacco users simply will find it out of state much cheaper. Buying online, once you know what you like, is convenient, fast, and highly economical. The state's revenue departments need to understand why they are seeing reductions in tobacco revenues. Unfortunately, many blame the problem on retailers who are selling untaxed tobacco. While this may be true in a few cases, by and large, the retailers in these high tax states simply don't sell much tobacco to their own residents. Many are forced to sell online to residents of other states to make ends meet. Now, all states have some requirement for their residents to pay the appropriate state tax on tobacco goods they have sent to them from without their state borders, but no state we know of has the organization or materials in place for the honest citizen to do this. Enforcement is almost impossible, and management of such a task seems overwhelmingly costly. The whole point of these excise revenues is to make more money for the states to spend on tobacco education, health care for those purportedly harmed by smoking but, in fact, little of the money the state does manage to collect, mostly from tobacco distributors, go to these areas. Instead, this income is used for everything from road building to retirement funds for state employees. In our state, some of it goes to the Oregon Health Plan which is a safety net health care system for those who make too little to afford health care insurance, whether they smoke or not. Smokers nationwide pay for an awful lot of state programs unrelated to smoking and the states are getting quite fat and complacent about this source of revenue.
No person in their right mind likes taxes, yet good arguments can be made for everyone, to some degree, contributing to the public good. And activities that are not necessary to existence are justifiable sources for revenues (luxury taxes, sin taxes, etc.). However, these tax schemes, while distasteful, are also totally illogical if they can't be collected because they are excessive in nature and if there are easy ways to avoid them. A few years ago the citizens of the state of Oregon passed a ballot measure to impose a 35% tax on tobacco. A bit high perhaps, but at least it was the will of the people. The legislature arbitrarily turned around and nearly doubled the tax to 65% a short time later. Much like the situation reported above in California, the will of the people was usurped by a handful of greedy individuals who saw a soft, vulnerable target. Since, on average, less than 10% of all collected tobacco taxes go to programs dealing with tobacco usage, we feel a nationwide 10% tax would not only be logical, but collectable. A nationwide movement to promote such a scheme to federal legislators could certainly be shown to collect at each state-wide revenue office more taxes than what most or all states actually wind up with. Varying tax structures among the various states serve only to cause people to break/bend the law and in doing so these constituents lose a lot of respect for the law in general. Coupled with corruption and sleaze among so many politicians, the public's apathy and mistrust in general of those that supposedly serve us, grows daily.
Packaged cigarettes, you might recall, are taxed differently by pack and often at rates that have little or no correlation to the tax on tobacco. We have little sympathy for packaged cigarette makers in general though some are better than others. However, we do feel that the cheap cigarette phenomenon will eventually lead to even more stringent controls on tobacco in general or new even more restrictive laws being enacted that affects all tobacco products. Misinformation and speculation can be dangerous. At one point, Jan contacted this magazine after one of the legislators posed to her the question of why cigarette revenues were dwindling in Oregon. Somehow this legislator was mistakenly led to believe that the culprit was the make your own market. The fact is, while MYO is beginning to make a dent in the package cigarette numbers as a whole, we suspect two things have more impact. First, tobacco outlets who are selling cigarettes on which no tax has been paid. It is fairly well known that this occurs. As to what degree, there is not enough enforcement in this state or any other to catch all of those who are bending or breaking the rules. While many discount the fact that a lot of people are buying cigarettes out of state, online, and mail order and therefore also avoiding the taxes due Oregon, we agree that this is not a very good business proposition. Rarely do you save much money after shipping. The point is if indeed MYO is reducing cigarette sales it should be remembered that tobacco tax is still being paid on MYO tobacco as long as the consumer buys it in state. And that is simply the point. Lower the tax and people will buy locally. Oregon will collect considerably more tax revenue were it not so punitive to buy tobacco here. Retailers in this state by and large are an honest bunch and most buy from licensed distributors who already pay the tax. Reducing the tax burden on rolling tobacco is an winning situation for all concerned and it is high time that smokers in all states with such high tobacco tax rates begin a proactive confrontation with their state legislatures to explain this simple proposition to them.
In our EDITORIAL this issue, we go into detail regarding this magazine's foray into the retail world as we have set up an experimental store to see what the retailer in a high tax state sees. Although we are able to show that making a profit in such an environment may not be as difficult as it may seem, it certainly does take a lot more creativity to do so. This heightened attention and toil should not be necessary for a legal product that in some states is barely taxed at all.
We would especially like to thank all of our advertisers who sell and manufacture a diverse array of high quality accessories and tobacco products, as well as the huge influx of e-mail concerning all aspects of the subject of RYO smoking. This magazine has received little opposition from the anti-smoking forces mainly due to the fact that we, as often stated, are not proponents of smoking but proponents of the public's right to smoke. We recognize the problems that tobacco ABUSE (like any other kind of abuse) can cause, and stress continually our belief that tobaccos in the purer forms found in RYO products contain far fewer, if any, of the additives that increase health assessment risks. We further stress the quantitatively sensible usage of tobacco as an occasional diversion that we, as smokers, can actively manage. There is no physiological reason that the enjoyment of quality tobacco need become an uncontrollable habit. For those who enjoy it, tobacco is a pleasurable substance that has a number of benefits to awareness and mood that, when used intelligently, can provide positives unavailable from other substances. But, if you are a four pack a day smoker (or even two), the sheer irritation to your lungs and cardio-vascular system is likely to cause you grief, much like the reaction your system would have if directly inhaling the equivalent amount of smoke from a campfire or other conflagration. Smoking is not a health-oriented practice, at least physiologically. But many forms of entertainment, which seem crucial for our day to day enjoyment of life, pose risk. Moderation is the key in all such endeavors, including tobacco use. If you are going to smoke tobacco, it seems only logical to enjoy the highest quality, most additive-free products available. We strive to make available information on just such products but remember, if you feel you should quit, then do it. In most cases, it can be done easily with a little creative replacement therapy.
Well, there are lots of new products to look at, so we hope you enjoy your visit here this time and wish all of you a most prosperous 2001.
Check out the links below and keep abreast what is happening in the tobacco wars. It directly effects you and your right to smoke and other endangered freedoms more and more every day. - the ed.
1. http://www.smokersalliance.org - The National Smokers Alliance
2. http://www.forces.org - FORCES - A national smoker's rights organization
3. http://www.smokers.org - The American Smoker's Alliance
4. http://www.fujipub.com/fot - Friends of Tobacco - A Tobacco and Smoking information clearing house
5. http://www.junkscience.com - A highly entertaining site exposing fraudulent and expensive scientific extrapolations.
6. http://thomas.loc.gov - Current, past, and pending legislative actions, bills, and sponsors - a huge resource.
7. http://tobaccolovers.com - A new and growing resource for tobacco related, history, techniques, and links.
8. http://www.smokerscorner.al.ru - A new Eastern European site with a variety of informational sections & services
9. http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-366es.html - a "White" Paper produced by the CATO Institute covering the Shelby Amendment which requires that all aspects of research whose findings lead to legislation being enacted be made part of the public record available to all. Fascinating reading.
Also, most of the news services (CNN, Fox, ABC, MSNBC, etc.), have extensive archives of smoking related articles both pro and con. They are great resources for both sides of the issue. Their websites are easily found in search engines or by URL (i.e. cnn.com).
Without a doubt, what should be the handbook for the smoker's rights enthusiast, Don Oakley's "Slow Burn" - an incredibly well researched, powerful history of the facts and fallacies (mostly) of the anti-smoking movement from its organized inception in the early 60's to present - is available at Amazon.com (click the book graphic at right to purchase it immediately online from Amazon.com (highly recommended). This book is filled with detailed accounts of the step-by-step conspiracy that has created the anti-tobacco environment we all suffer today as well as many portents of the dangers of attorney driven campaigns to change the ways our basic rights are defined. It's all about money and it will make you angry . . . AND. . . you will be amazed at how much wool has been pulled over the eyes of the American sheep population.
Below are some
additional links to sites with some in-depth information on the colorful
1. Jim Shaw's Burnt
|EDITOR'S NOTE: These reviews are solely for the convenience of people of legal age who already smoke, are trying to cut down on smoking, wish to spend less money on their smoking, want to roll their own cigarettes from high quality tobacco, and, in general, wish to have a far more satisfying, and economical smoking experience when compared with smoking pre-manufactured cigarettes. We, in no way, encourage people to smoke. Further, we prescribe to a sane, more logical approach to smoking that involves common sense as to quantity coupled with a strong desire to manage the habit until it becomes an occasional, freely chosen, diversion, that can be fully enjoyed with minimal health risks. Finally, we strongly encourage those who do smoke to take it outdoors, or to appropriate environments where tobacco can be enjoyed away from those who do not smoke, most especially children. We do not sell tobacco or related products from this site; We distribute information about our perceptions of the quality of what is available and where it can be obtained. If you are under 18, it is illegal to buy tobacco and you should immediately exit this site. If you do not smoke, it would seem illogical to start.|
© 1999 RYO Magazine
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