| This new issue and all subsequent
issues of RYO Magazine will include an extremely comprehensive Multi-Media
section that will show every nuance, in great clarity and detail, of the RYO/MYO
experience. With the high quality Audio and Video capabilities we've developed here at RYO
Magazine, no longer will folks have to speculate on the efficiency of this methodology or
strive to understand its efficacy. Our readers will be seeing it clearly and first hand,
including Tobacco Blending Techniques, Injecting with all types of Injectors, Hand-Rolling
and Hand Rolling Machines, Tube Analyses, Speed Tests for Injecting and everything else
you could possible imagine relating to the MYO/RYO experience. With broadband becoming
cost-efficient and thus a must have for so many people, it is finally possible to expand
the understanding of these techniques by showing them in pristine detail to the millions
who are partially or completely unfamiliar with MYO/RYO. These will not be grainy, small
hard to see Real Audio and Video files. Instead what you will experience is high quality,
easily viewed Window's Media Files compressed from broadcast quality video/audio. Mac
users will need the latest Windows Media Player plug-in for Mac, easily
obtained by clicking here.
Windows users will need the latest Window's Media Video 9 as well, all easily obtained at
the preceding link.
There will also be a Weekly Update Column, with new information regarding the world of RYO/MYO. We have received a LOT of requests for a section such as this. As the tobacco issue becomes constantly more fluid and complex, readers want an ongoing source of current information. This new Update section will allow us to let you know what goes on behind the scenes of RYO Magazine as well as what is happening with manufacturers, retailers, and consumers. We'll include updates on the never ending battle with increasing regulation and other political issues related to tobacco, taxes and more. We'll also share snippets of the subject matter contained in the large amount of email we receive weekly and address many of the issues broached by our readership. sometime we'll just have a conversation about things in general. Should be most interesting and likewise give you some idea of the extent of our activities within and on behalf of this industry. The first column will be posted Monday, August 2nd, immediately after we return from the RTDA show in Las Vegas. A new column will appear every Monday of each week as a continuing regular part of this publication. Old columns will be archived by date weekly as well so you won't miss anything should you happen not to stop by during any given week. Both the new Video Section (Multi-Media) and the Weekly Update Section are designed to greatly broaden the reach of MYO/RYO to those not fortunate enough to have fully experienced it. Additionally beginning with this issue, we will return to our Quarterly schedule (Four issue per year). The main problem has been that there are simply not enough new products to write about for more frequent issue publication. However there IS an awful lot that goes on in addition to new products and we will share those with you much more frequently in the future. Short of new products, we can discuss the possibilities and need for new products that our readers express. We will also share with you in the various sections of this magazine, our readers perception of the products we have already reviewed.
We get a very large amount of email and appreciate the patience our loyal readership has shown over the past months with our reduced number of issues. However, it is important to note, that one of the foremost mandates of RYO Magazine is to be a catalyst for action by our readers. Many read and re-read this magazine frequently and pass on information or direct new friends to the content found in these pages. There is a lot to do, for both we and our readers, to ensure that our ability to govern our own private behavior is preserved and continues to be held sacred by those that supposedly represent "us". Freedom of individual choice, as a hard fought right duly earned and as a basic to all free people, is the most precious legacy that we can pass on to future generations and there is NO time left to merely contemplate action. Advocacy and participation is the only path that will lead to renewed respect for the rights of all. Now we are asked frequently if we have a partisan political direction. In other words are we Democrats or Republicans, Conservatives or Liberals. Such question, while understandable, miss the point of this publication. RYO/MYO is a philosophy that goes well beyond the bounds of tobacco issues or politics. It strikes at the very heart of one's right to control their own environment and destiny. The self pre-occupied extremist wings of both political parties are not operating in the best interest of the citizens of this country. Simply put, the extreme liberals want to make sure everything we do that we enjoy, or that is FUN, is regulated such that life is 100% safe and secure. The ultra-conservative right wing would prefer we have NO FUN at all as a robust enjoyment of life somehow violate some screwy moral code of ethics. We find both of these groups more than disturbing and not in keeping with the spirit that has made the US a model and molder of destiny.
And mix in these groups' ability to manipulate statistics, and we have a situation where not only tobacco is going to be regulated much more aggressively in the future, but practically everything else we enjoy as well. There is no Chicken Little dogma here. The sky is not falling - it HAS fallen and the longer it takes folks to realize and appreciate the erosion of personal freedom here at home, the deeper the hole we are all going to have to crawl out of one day. You know, people used to say Peace is a Desert (notwithstanding the multi century old problems in the Middle East). The fact is that for life to remain interesting, involves diversity with risk, adventure, passion, and fighting for what you believe as an imperative for healthy progress. I crave not safety imposed by the whims of others, only accurate information so that I can decide FOR MYSELF what is right for me. Go look in the mirror and see if the person staring back at you is willing to take back control of his or her civilization and of our very destiny. Dependence on anything, including nicotine, is counter-productive to the grand notion of the free individual. I hope you like what you see in that mirror but if you have to lower you eyes just a bit to hide a bit of embarrassment because you've delegated somewhat your obligations to substance or State, remember that one can change paths abruptly and dramatically in a very short amount of time indeed. And we only have a short amount of time left before we lose control completely. Sure life will go on. Large systems like large ships take a while to turn but turn they can and turn they will and if you find yourself going the the wrong direction as a society, the course adjustment can take decades. The real question is who is going to be at the helm and THAT, we have the right and obligation to determine to OUR satisfaction.
The following concerns the RYO/MYO industry and its current GENERAL (by no means universal) attitudes in defining its customer base both present and future. We feel this industry has a lot to gain by widening these definitions or face the worst of all business topologies, the plateau!
Ah, the American Dream. "Money for nothing, Chicks for Free" - to quote yet another well known ditty. Winning the lottery, rich relatives croaking, undervalued stocks and real estate surging, Carlton Sheets and Tony Robbins and all the other Keebler Elves of Magic formula wealth. Definitively, the Golden Goose windfall. Well despite my oft stated aversion to puritanical philosophies, I still believe in the good old puritan work ethic but with a twist to be sure. Specifically, that you need not of necessity slave in mind-numbing physical or repetitive labor for an uncaring company of robber barons to reinforce the healthy display of your work ethic. Certainly however, you have to expend, at bare minimum, a great deal of envelope-pushing mental energy to be successful at anything and ultimately enable yourself to gain at least a semblance of control. Which means you have to think, observe and ultimately initiate personal action. And, of course, take some risks along the way as well. Selling RYO/MYO products is not an easy way to fame and fortune. There are no guarantees. However, if you are willing to work hard, learn copiously about the category and its product, especially injectors and tobacco, and manage as well to avoid some of the pitfalls that are commonplace that we outline below, such an endeavor can be quite rewarding.
Gold Rings on the rather wobbly merry-go-round of life (very poor cliche) are great if you are in the right place at the right time, but even then, there is always risk and the reach from the carousel horse is often very hard work as well as risky. The few that are just plain lucky, more often than not, wind up on the evening news with tales of woe, the victims of greedy new found friends (or new found relatives). Even more common are those who are simply not enjoying their new found treasure in ways they expected they would. There are exceptions of course, but these exceptions usually depend on one's comfort or familiarity with some degree of wealth or security before the jackpot be struck. We find this scenario analogous in part to the cavalier ways that the States are spending their pots of gold we've placed for them at the end of the MSA rainbow. The State governments are certainly not happy by any fiscal measure that would define them as such and, for the most part, they have squandered their ill-gotten gains on everything BUT tobacco intervention. Now they are once again broke, looking for new golden geese to slaughter. The litany of ways people in works of fiction have blown their Geni offered three wishes, while often humorous, is consistent to the point of yet another cliche. They simply don't know what they really want and, in determining the subtle narrowing of definitions, find themselves ultimately blowing the whole deal. The States seemingly want to destroy tobacco and yet depend heavily on its revenue. However, most bureaucracies wouldn't know a gold ring from a frog wart, unless its in their "culture" manual, so who's really to be surprised?
One could look at attorneys (be ready to avert your eyes quickly, less your curious gaze turn you to stone) but even they, whom for now seem to be enjoying the fruits of their sticky interpretive manipulations, are suffering an image crisis unparalleled in history (to the point that the new Democratic Vice Presidential nominee is having his integrity questioned simply because he was/is an attorney and has more than a little 'splainin' to do to get the support of many wary voters). There may even come soon a time when there will be instituted some serious alterations to attorneys' abilities to gouge millions in frivolous law suits against deep pocketed companies, while representing folks who have relinquished their responsibility for their own actions and whom individually, will see little in the way of financial reward. A recent case involving Microsoft, where over a million possible plaintiffs have sued the software giant for price gouging, to the tune of several hundreds of millions of dollars, will literally and ultimately net the victors only a few hundred dollars apiece, while the attorneys fees reach nearly 60 million dollars. The good news is that courts are beginning to exercise their power to limit those fees, but I don't see this becoming a common occurrence for a while yet, as courts are made up of attorneys, and laws are often written by same. But the time is coming.
Thinking outside the bureacratic/judicial box for a moment, it would seem that those truly interested in tort reform and in limiting lawsuits would do well to limit attorneys fees rather than strip citizens of the power to battle giant corporations whose morality and practices may be in question. There are still many attorneys who have a passion for the art of law and some who actually believe in the concept of justice. But the law is not science and justice is a fleeting, nebulous concept that depends on many extraneous factors well beyond the control of most secular participants in litigations. The law is what a judge and/or a jury decide in a brief moment in time. Laws enacted for the GOOD of the people often have a pretty narrow focus on just which people are to benefit. Just like in business, when a company prospers another must prosper less. Both the number of customers and equanimity of justice is finitely limited. There are only so many resources in any given quantum set and the opportunists lie in wait for what always seems to be a disproportionately large slice of the pie. That's human nature and the only way to change that is to increase the size of the pie or reduce the number of eaters.
There are, of course, many other examples of predatory and pie in the sky opportunistic treasure hunts, but let's take a look at the direction the MYO/RYO industry appears to be heading and see how it fits with the concepts outlined above. First think about a plateau as a physical structure.
While in the last few years, a few of us have been relieved to see our stock portfolios at least manage to remain in a steady straight line plateau (as oppose to a death defying plummet), business sectors that plateau are not unlike swimmers treading water. Sure you're not downing - YET - but it is only a matter of time. And while the crazy ping pong profile that has defined portfolio investment of late is unnerving, at least there have been some UPS with the Downs. The MYO/RYO industry has had and continues to have the potential for a very bright future indeed, but it has somewhat plateaued, despite verbiage extolling it as the fastest growing tobacco market segment. The sales have been increasing to a degree (while pointedly, almost all other segments of tobacco sales have been losing ground - so, its not hard to win a race when your competitors are running the wrong direction) but these increases are minor in terms of NEW customers. Packaged cigarette smokers still outnumber MYO to the tune of 97 to 1 or better. Well, we are going to start doing something beginning with this issue that may just start to turn things around a bit. Pretty ambitious you say, well read on.
Simply put, there are too few people who smoke packaged cigarettes who are aware of the advantages AND simplicity of MYO. No, we are not forgetting RYO but for the moment lets be reasonable in agreeing that MOST Americans smoke cigarettes and will probably NEVER feel comfortable with the physical activity of hand rolling and even less comfortable with the look of their finished hand rolled product. That is why MYO (injectors, tubes, tobacco) is and continues to be the salvation of not only this industry, but perhaps that of tobacco, in its purest sense, as a pleasurable diversion for those that have every right to experience it.
Now we should not have to remind our readership of our position on tobacco (moderation, quality, and abstention if problems or obsession occur), but unlike the industry itself, we have many new readers daily, many of whom are just now discovering the MYO experience. These are not non-smokers, eagerly attempting to start smoking. Rather they are smokers of packaged cigarettes who are looking for an alternative. And the defining factor as to why they are looking at an alternative is where many in the MYO industry have been treading water for far too long. Bluntly speaking, this industry has for too long extolled the sole virtue of economy as its anticipated pheromone attraction to packaged smokers. In other words, catering to those who, for one reason or another, cannot or will not pay the increasingly high prices for major brand cigarettes. Well that strategy is beginning to bite back as floods of 4th tier (CHEAP) cigarettes (some legal, some not so legal) are inundating the market. Now it has been our experience and steady mantra that the only reason to make your own cigarettes is that the end products are far higher in quality, both in the freshness of the tobacco, the quality of the tobacco itself and in the ancillary advantage that the method returns a sense of control to the user. It boils down to this. The bulk of our very large readership, who are involved faithfully in MYO, would not go back to packaged cigarettes if they were to be given away for free and the longer they indulge in making their own, trying new and higher quality tobaccos, the more hardened is their dedication. The experience both in obsession loss and taste is so very different, that money in most cases, is no longer the operating factor. It IS true that many, who find themselves at this publication, got started because of the obscene taxation schemes of greedy legislatures, revenue dependent non-profit organizations, and tort-happy lawyers, not to mention the fact that big cigarette companies added to the cost of cigarettes in order to pay for legal problems that in many cases they brought upon themselves. However, once a smoker begins to enjoy the true flavor of good tobacco and finds the obsession with NICOTINE diminishing or disappearing entirely, few would consider a return to their old packaged marketing driven ways.
The point for this industry is not to create NEW smokers but to avail to those, who already smoke, a better alternative. Not just a cheaper one!!!!. The CHEAP dogmatic ambience is the last thing that MYO should be about - not the primary. After all, those who are living at a poverty level are probably not eating well, exercising properly, and not doing many other things that lead to a healthier, less conflict prone body. They are not going to help the statistics that will eventually emerge as to the relationship to tobacco and health when one engages in the moderate behavior that is most often the end product of conversion to MYO. Now everyone has the right to smoke as long as they are old enough, and do so with respect to the rights of others. So the fact that low cost is a part of this industry, does contribute to the enjoyment of all that chose to participate, regardless of economic status. However, the industry itself is presently engaged in a battle among its manufacturing members to provide cheaper, lower quality products to attract more participation. We feel this is a dramatically incorrect assessment of how to bring this methodology to the tens of millions of packaged cigarette smokers.
In Europe, the rolling tobacco industry, which has a far higher percentage of patrons than in the US, has been hard hit because of the introduction of extremely cheap packaged smokes. Canada has seen the same scenario beginning to be played out. And in the US the existence of Native American smoke shops as well as the same or similar 4th tier cigarettes that Europe has been dealing with, are going to compete heavily with the rolling industry in the future. They already are but US laws are much more restrictive as far as it concerns the import of foreign cigarettes which must be MSA compliant regardless of source. With individual state taxation schemes thrown into the mix, and increasingly serious penalties for import violations, the contraband, non compliant cigarettes are on a pretty aggressive hit list. The reservation smoke shops do make an impact but who better to sell tobacco than those that introduced it to Europeans centuries ago in the first place. The fact is, reservations make a much greater impact on the packaged cigarette market than on the MYO industry, at least for now. But their lower cost products will begin to absorb customers from this industry as well as long as the mantra of RYO/MYO remains focused solely on low cost. Tobacco should be enjoyed occasionally and when it is done in this manner, the cost is significantly less compared to heavy consumption of packaged cigarettes even if one uses the finest of tobaccos and accessories and all taxes are paid.
We are about to embark on our yearly trip to the RTDA (Retail Tobacco Distributors Association) convention in Las Vegas. There we are sure to find a lot of emphasis still on low cost tubes and tobacco. We always have extensive discussions with manufacturers there, as we do on a daily basis from our office, as to the folly of continually pushing the "cheap cigarette" dogma. The industry, at least certain elements within it, are and have been listening. That is partly why they continue to provide high quality products and continue develop even better ones. Mostly they do so because they are, regardless of size, quality oriented organizations. D&R Tobacco and Stokkebye International are two such organizations. They resist the urge to provide cheap ass tobacco in order to compete. Their products continue to improve and new and even higher quality blends emerge frequently from these two. We'll look at some of their newest in the Tobacco section of this issue. However even the venerable Stokkebye International has on its website an opinion poll of retailers where the emphasis on cost over quality seems to win out handily. (See www.peterstokkebye.com and click on Opinions. The problem is that these retailers suffer from the same short-sighted thinking that we fear for the industry as a whole. Sure, if someone comes in because they no longer want to spend as much as they are currently spending on packaged brands, the smoke shop is going to report that as a matter of economy. However, that does not mean that only cheap, low grade tobacco should be shown to the fiscally challenged. Even the highest priced rolling tobaccos are a bargain when you make your own cigarettes. And for a lot of reasons, in addition to cost. Retailers can be lazy, indifferent, or simply untrained in the advantages and diversity of various grades of tobaccos and/or technique. Often when bringing in rolling tobaccos for the first time, outlets and tobacco shops will buy the cheapest they can get from their distributors. And that is what their new prospective customers first see.
While it is true that even very low grade tobacco when injected into a tube will exceed the flavor of all but the most premium of manufactured sticks, the retailer often fails to inform the new customer of the relative economy of even high grade tobacco not to mention the fact that the patron may find themselves smoking less as well. I've been in many tobacco shop during my lifetime, and today, service and knowledge behind the counter is at an all time low. Demonstrations are few and far between and often even when demonstrated, the "demonstrator" has little experience in showing just how easy the process is. The retailer is in an ideal position to gain a consultant's persona, if they simply take the time. Customers of MYO will rely on the opinions of sales people who professionally present alternatives to simply the cheapest way to go. Its called up-selling in most businesses, but in the tobacco business, the difference in cost, when compared to packaged cigarettes (from whence the new customer has come) is negligible.
Without this kind of proactive participation on the part of the retail operation, it is likely that MYO will continue in its failure to gain significant market share. Most Americans have an aversion to the word CHEAP. Tough financial time notwithstanding, even the poorest among us have pride and that pride is a significant factor in the market place. As mentioned above we are no longer going to sit by and watch missed opportunity prevail. We are going to do the demonstrations here. Comprehensive and well produced demonstrations of every facet of the potential of MYO/RYO. These demonstration will be found in the new MultiMedia Section and will be added to copiously and regularly. Video will be available to both retailer and manufacturers in the form of DVD and Video CDs so that they can begin to spread the word through actual demonstrations rather than through market diagnostics.
Even though there are significant examples of quality driven direction in this industry, much of the MYO/RYO part (relatively small) of the RTDA show will still be dominated by cheaper (and lower quality) tobaccos. While again, there are folks out there who need this low cost alternative, I suppose (I personally would prefer that even the least fiscally fortunate of our citizenry, who wish to smoke - not need to - would use great tobaccos in smaller quantities resulting in the same cost overall) the fact that the industry as a whole continues to be pre-occupied with price is disturbing and, I repeat adamantly, short sighted. Businesses in all sectors who compete based solely on low price are very often forced into to higher prices (have you seen the prices at Costco lately), are driven out of business by foreign companies, or wind up outsourcing labor which is anathema to a health economy. Even Wal-Mart has more than just prices to attract. They have huge variety and while they are in a bit of trouble currently with employee satisfaction, their stores continue to do pretty well. They are having troubles with their new MEGA store concept in many proposed locations, as they do adversely effect surrounding retailers, but at least they don't limit the purchaser to only cheap crap. They have good quality items as well. Nonetheless, they are vulnerable, as are the on-the-cheap suppliers of product to this industry, to even cheaper price competition. Do you remember White Front. Best Products, Zody's, to mention a few. They didn't make it though they once had quite a presence. K-Mart has risen prices considerably an now caters to an audience more likely to visit Target, Sam's Club, and Fred Meyer.
It is important to note here, as we did in the last issue, that people shop certain venues for variety as much as for price. Our concerns about Internet sales regulation comes from our knowledge that many or most people shop on the web for tobacco and everything else, because there they can find the specific item they are looking for or have heard about. Their chance of finding new products locally is much more problematic. Would they continue to shop the Internet stores if prices were adjusted to level them with local merchants who have sales taxes and, in the case of tobacco, state excise taxes? We firmly believe they would. We certainly would and will continue to do so, regardless of what "adjustments" may come in the future. I want what I want and not what one narrow focused storekeep may decide is my best option. The Internet regulation question and the idea of cheap tobacco hits at the same misreading and lack of appreciation of the intelligence and independence of the general public. And frankly I am offended by both, whose mindsets portray consumers as blind, malleable robots who can be seduced simply by the cheap side of life.
Is it any wonder the MYO/RYO appears to be in somewhat of a plateau. Again we judge this plateau in reality based on NEW customers from the packaged cigarette ranks, not on the already converted. It is our strong opinion that such plateaus are absolutely unnecessary to a industry that is as diverse, vibrant, and revolutionary as MYO. It is up to the manufacturers, retailers, and the hordes of promotional agencies to first understand the true differences in the MYO experience and then begin to share these concepts with the understanding that those that will hear the "pitch" have intelligence and are not easily swayed by the crass term of CHEAPER alone.
We will continue to laud those manufacturers who produce with an eye on quality above price and of course let you know when the two concepts occasionally merge into products that represent both high standards and unusually great value. But for now remember that, unlike buying an expensive car that you have to pay for regardless of how much you drive it, more in the vein of great wine, you can enjoy the world's finest tobaccos if you are moderate in their use. No matter what your income, consumption is the key, not dumbing down the quality of products for mass appeal. And reduced individual consumption of tobacco is likely to provide some very interesting health data over the next decade or two, data that may dramatically change the general public's view on tobacco and tobacco litigations and taxation as well. And most importantly the general public's view on the behavior of those profiting the most from tobacco regulation, including States, pharmaceutical companies and tax exempt anti-tobacco organizations whose very message is in direct conflict with their addiction to the huge amount of funds they receive on its behalf. Check out the MultiMedia Section when its ready and share with your friends or customers its content.
Because Peter Stokkebye meant so very much to so many inside and outside of the Tobacco industry, we repeat below our thoughts from the last issue on his passing. Since his death, his son Erik has become a good friend and we feel confident that all of the vitality and commitment to excellence his father exemplified will continue to be the hallmark of the Stokkebye Company and its products.
On October ninth, Peter Stokkebye, perhaps the one true icons of the tobacco industry, certainly at least in the US, and a good friend, passed away. Peter has left a mighty legacy and the subsequent very large shoes to fill that present a tremendous challenge to those that follow. We did several biographical sketches on Peter over the years, and though his products, and his presence, have been felt in every issue of this magazine, most prominent was a biography in the July 2001 Issue as well as an interesting three way conversation between Peter, Arnold Kastner, founder of CTC, and myself in the Jan 2002 Review section where we explored the future of RYO/MYO in the US. Both pieces can be located by clicking the preceding links and I think that it is important for you to start there in order to begin to understand what we have lost and further appreciate what follows.
Peter lived a most interesting life, encompassing situations ranging from near royal status to struggling entrepreneur. Things were not always easy but seem to have been always interesting in his adventure. His book, which is part biography, and part history, concerns a wide time span of tobacco development, and is understandably fascinating. This personal look at several generations of people, who ultimately formed the foundations of the Stokkebye company, takes one on a very people oriented historical journey sharing enjoyable and instructive insights into the surprisingly common experiences of each era. It is not as dry as most histories. Nor is it as self involved as most biographies. While not a major literary work, it is one of the most honest and down to earth dialogues of how people lived, took chances, failed, and prospered during the last several centuries. Tobacco is the main backdrop but the personal experiences of our ancestors gives one a great deal of insight into the possible consequences for those who may fear risk, change, and challenge. These experiences speak eloquently of the fact that such risk taking, even if unsuccessful most of the time, points us inevitably in new directions and, in the end, quite frequently leads to not only more interesting, fulfilling lives, but more profitable ones as well. You simply must read this book. It is truly a genuinely interesting, and inspiring slice of the human adventure. You can purchase it by clicking on the graphic of the book at right and following the link. In our next issue (Winter/Spring 2004), we will do an entire piece on the book and share many more specifics about Peter and his amazing adventures including a detailed look at the Peter Stokkebye Memorial Fund, now undergoing definition as to what it may finally entail. More, from time to time, will be available on the Peter Stokkebye International site as well. It is still, at this time, difficult to speak of his loss so for now it should be obvious that many people are so affected and much more will be forthcoming when appropriate.
Once again we remind you of Peter's book. The MYO world, is relatively young compared with RYO and manufactured brand cigarettes as well. In fact, most products that are exclusive to MYO like tubes and injectors (even that word scares folks though stuffer is even worse), sound more like industrial equipment labels than consumer oriented products. Of course, tobacco is not produced with just injectors in mind so the great old names associated with fine tobacco like Stokkebye, with Bali, McClintock, etc., had no reason to change their branding schemes for their inclusion in this burgeoning industry. Now ten years ago I had never even heard the name Peter Stokkebye. In fact, it took a couple of years after that before I could properly pronounce it. However from the moment I saw it on a can of tobacco, I somehow 'knew" it must be classy. The name looks good and when you correctly pronounce it, it sounds good (stoke-a-bee). It was years later when I finally met the man himself and of course, after that, I knew that my initial impression of elegance and quality was well placed. Peter has been an icon in the pipe tobacco industry for a very long time and enjoyed the same reputation in the rolling industry but to a much more secular crowd. This book (at left), a grand biography actually, you will find fascinating if you love good tobacco as I do, and are curious as to its production and roots, not to mention if your are interested in sharing the adventures that this fascinating human being enjoyed on the road to becoming a true tobacco icon. We recommend it highly as we feel it important to understanding the amount of care and hard work involved in creating incredible tobacco blends as well as the decades of experience necessary to even begin to understand producing tobacco as an art form.
Before you read the article below, you should be aware that there is currently even newer legislation before Congress that concerns a grand tobacco buyout scheme for farmers. This newest legislation like the Bills below has received almost NO public scrutiny. It deals not only with the Government's desire to pay off tobacco farmers to end the subsidies and price controls they have been enjoying for many decades, but more importantly will likely lead to FDA regulation of tobacco. By using the following links you can read the few details provided by the major news networks regarding this legislation.
We suggest you take it further and go to every major network and publication's websites for more information on this crucial new example of legislative "rider" loading of Bills. The buyout is only a mask over a far more ominous set of circumstance that would arise were the FDA to actually gain control over marketing and regulation of tobacco - all tobacco, not just cigarettes. We can envision a day under this new enactment where a smoker will need a prescription for his weekly allotment of tobacco as nicotine will join the ranks of Percogesics and other opiates as a controlled substance. The Pharmaceuticals have a lot to gain from such legislation as do surprisingly enough, the large cigarette makers who will experience both lower prices from the no longer price supported farmers, but added profits as well from associations with pharmaceuticals and themedical establishment generally. You'd better check this out and in my new Weekly Address column, I will provide an ongoing discussion of this new legislation as well as the ongoing battle over the legislation outlined below from the last issue. We will also address some of the other possible ramifications of this and other legislation in our Editorial page that will be posted August 2nd when we return from certain discussions at the RTDA.
Previously . . .
There is far reaching legislation before Congress regarding the use of the Internet for tobacco sales and distribution. While both Senate Bill 1177 (S1177) and House Resolution 2824 (HR2824) were initially proposed to restrict contraband cigarettes, these Bills have been expanded (as is so often typical) to include other tobacco products including roll your own. While it has always been our premise here that people obey the law and that even buying tobacco over the Internet does not lessen the purchaser's obligation to pay appropriate state taxes, there are some who have the view that by purchasing online they AVOID these extra taxes. While in reality, the way the system is set up makes it difficult for the states to gather information on who is receiving tobacco from outside their state. New state laws are addressing this issue as we speak. Now, we should honor state and federal laws at all times. However, we should also be proactive in making sure universally unfair or overly restrictive, invasive, confusing, minority segment targeted, or inefficiently expensive legislation is prevented from passing into law in the first place. OR, if already passed, repealed using the ballot process. Therefore, until either the laws can be changed or, more likely, NEW lawmakers can be elected who have a more rational approach to regulation and revenue acquisition as well as an aversion to the idea of taxing minority groups like smokers to make up for budgetary shortfalls, it has remained the responsibility of the recipient of the tobacco to pay the state tax.
These NEW laws, however, are designed to put the burden of collecting the tax on the Internet SELLER and, additionally, to make PUBLIC personal information regarding the buyer and seller as well as the contents of any goods shipped. Now while we, once again, are adamant in obeying the law, we feel that this new strategy is ill-conceived and requires online dealers to interact with an extremely complex and inefficient bureaucracy which may likely have dramatically different standards of reporting and regulation for each of the 50 states. It is also a serious invasion of privacy, not to mention the fact that the carriers (UPS, FedEx, etc.) as well would be required to keep public records of their customers. This could well spell disaster for the small business trying to make a living selling a legal product such as tobacco. Even more of concern, as will be addressed in the article below, is the fact that this could well be the beginning of serious efforts to regulate ALL Internet commerce. There are Constitutional issues here as well as other free trade and interstate commerce questions that will be generated by some of these neo-Draconian measures. The initial point of a lot of this kind of legislation is to help the states collect the taxes that are legally owed (at least per current law) and to level the playing field somewhat between the Internet retailer and the local one. However, these kinds of laws go way too far in putting Internet retailers at a huge disadvantage, due primarily to the poorly thought out, inefficient reporting schemes, and the wildly different requirements by each state and local jurisdiction for compliance.
We, therefore, think it is vitally important for our readership and those they know to become immediately involved in this process. Almost NO information other than the links we will provide in a moment has been shared with the public about these new legislative instruments. The public has NEVER been given their rightful opportunity to weigh in on these Bills that are not only being proposed but are actually very close to passing, ultimately for the President's signature. No news organization has even mentioned the existence of these Bills, and even CSPAN has completely neglected the subject. In fact, the only way one would find out about them is if they were active in watching both anti and pro tobacco sites or the Thomas.gov site we link to in every issue at page bottom.
We feel the secretive nature of this recent process raises a lot of questions as to its integrity. There are suggestions that Big cigarette companies are behind this, as well as the very powerful Convenience Store lobby. There appears also to be a lot of vested interest in these Bills by specific states (Pennsylvania and Virginia most assuredly) that is far too disproportionate for a Federal Bill affecting the residents of all states. Regardless of who was responsible for adding rolling tobacco to these Bills, their motives are extremely suspect. The following link will get you started but is not entirely endorsed by RYO Magazine as being completely accurate. It will give you a box to click on so that you can reach your particular representatives as well as President Bush with your comments, but some of what is there as to the FDA involvement, for instance, we have been unable to find in the current set of bills. Here is that link.
The Thomas link is also here , where you can type in each of the Bills (HR2824, S1177, HR3184) in question and read their provisions (summaries are also available, but often are misleading, leaving out important details). In the Tables below, you will see first the House members on the committee in control of this legislation along with their e-mail address, followed by the Senate Bill's activity and sponsors. Phone calls and snail mail are often more effective than e-mails, but time is of the essence, so email first then call or send a letter. Make your concerns respectful, brief, and to the point. Most of the Reps and Senators have websites as well with full contact info. Even if they are not from your state, your input is important and will be noticed because you are addressing a national issue. Use the link below to go to an excellent site that has each of the States represented in the table below (and all of the states for future reference), to get each member's contact information and an e-mail link. You should be able to toggle quickly back and forth between this page and the newly opened link page below, picking the state first and then finding the House or Senate member for that state who is on the respective committees. Once you have the email link, click on it and send each these people your thoughts.
House Resolution 2824
HR 3184 is also of interest as it concerns collection of sales taxes for Internet Sales of any product. Use the same scenario as above to find out about the bill and the various links to find out who sponsors it and who is on the committee. It is up to you if you really want control over your government. I e-mailed each one (and wrote quite a few letters as well). The e-mails took less than 30 minutes for both Houses of Congress. The fact is you'd better get ready to become more proactive than ever before. Our Government is becoming less, rather than more, transparent and we may one day find it very difficult to have any input at all if we allow this trend to persist.
Finally, one thing struck me about the first two Bills. Four out of the twenty on the House committee were from Pennsylvania. That is a very high percentage considering the size of the state. When you later read the Editorial Section of this issue, take a look at Pennsylvania in the tables on that page. They (PA) have a $1.00 per pack tax on cigarettes, but with over a BILLION cigarette packs sold in the state in each of both years covered in the table, they collected only a little over $320 million in cigarette revenue. Evidently, only one out of three packs were taxed. Makes no sense and though it might be attributed to Native American Reservation sale sources to some degree, it still begs the question of how do they know how many packs were sold if two-thirds were not reported for taxation. It is also interesting to note that two House members from Virginia (a major tobacco state with a very low tax) are involved in this. One certainly wonders where their "special interests" truly reside. There is a lot of back room BS going on in the Government at all levels, and if you don't get involved and stay currently knowledgeable, you've only yourself to blame as your freedoms and rights continue to dwindle. And they will - you can bet on it.
Some pretty scary stuff if taken to the logical conclusion that governments tend to use ALL of the power we give them. The problem boils down to the fact that the Democrats are harder on tobacco than the Republicans, but the current Administration has their hands in wildly intrusive surveillance schemes to the point that we really are in jeopardy of seeing the day when the oft cliched Big Brother rules supreme. I haven't a clue how I will vote in November. Hopefully new candidates will begin to emerge who both respect our rights to privacy and our rights to consume. It will only happen if we make it so.
Once again, we also urge you to read the Stephen Baxter novel "Evolution" at left above. It provides an amazing and entertaining insight into the fragility of civilization, the inevitability of change, and the dangers of narrow, self interest-only thinking that leads to a life that lacks diversity and adaptability. One note here: As with all of the links in this publication, usually when you follow them, a new window will open which you need only close to return here - your place of origin.
We realize this is a fair amount to read, but trust me when I say that this is less than 5% of the articles that we found on the issue. And even more can be found on any of the major news websites by simply typing in "Internet Taxes." Always select "search CNN.com or whatever organization you are at" rather than the whole web, but as an additional resource, Alta Vista is probably the most up to date resource on any issue. The other search engines have become basically pay per views for the top listed results and take quite a while to acknowledge new web sites. Have fun with the adventure and let us know YOUR perspective as to what you read on the above linked pages. We love hearing from you. The amount of e-mail we currently receive makes it difficult to always respond immediately but you usually will hear back from us within a few days at most. Enjoy - Doug
Our greatest hope at this magazine is that we will stimulate our readers, and those they come in contact with, to begin a journey that involves increased self reliance and control over every aspect of their personal lives. If you don't like taxes or the legislation your representatives are supporting, find new candidates and vote for them. If you work for someone else, start your own business on the side. Stay flexible. Eat healthy, exercise regularly, practice moderation and by all means have FUN. Exorcise the bitterness life sometimes injects and replace it with a sense of adventure. Look up once in a while and remember the dreams we had of the stars when we were kids. Begin to think of the larger universe where opportunities unimagined lie. The only limit to the achievements possible for each and every one of us are the ones that we place on ourselves or allow other to place on us. With these principles in mind let us once again state the purposes that guide the production of this publication.
Most of the information in this magazine is directed solely at those people of legal age who already smoke, those who are trying to reduce their tobacco intake, those wishing to spend less money on tobacco, and who are interested in creating their own cigarettes using high quality tobacco products of their choosing - in general, those who wish to have, in our opinion, a far more satisfying, and economical smoking experience when compared with smoking pre-manufactured cigarettes. We, in no way, wish to encourage people to smoke. Further, we subscribe to a more sane, more logical approach for those that chose to smoke, that involves common sense as to quantity, coupled with a strong commitment to manage the habit until it becomes an occasional, freely chosen, diversion, that can be fully enjoyed without obsession, and hopefully, with minimal health risks. No sensible person should assume that the intake of smoke or other pollutants of any kind can be advantageous to your physical health, and we feel that any tobacco use implies demonstrable statistical risk. We submit that, if you do not smoke, it would seem illogical to start. However, we are likewise extremely interested in future determinations as to the degree of risk based on dosage and smoking material and encourage much more research to be undertaken, using sound, scientific methods that can be looked at as universally credible.
It is our position that because of the sheer enormity of money that is involved in the tobacco debate, and the fact that such vast amounts of resource can breed fraud and corruption, as evidenced by the large number of claims of violations attributed to the cigarette industry, as well as counter-claims of fraudulent research methods by those on the other side of the issue, much more needs to be done to quantify the specific elements of tobacco smoke as well as specific elements of other sources of smoke and pollution in our environment that can lead to health problems. We therefore stress as a logical and necessary step forward, in order to ameliorate the controversy and lessen the divisive nature of the subject, that any and all tax revenues that are collected on tobacco, as well as all punitive damages collected on behalf of US citizens by all local, state, and federal litigations against tobacco, other than those funds already allocated that are needed to satisfy current regulation and enforcement, be applied to five (5) areas of investigation and compensation exclusively. These areas are:
The emerging Make You Own philosophy, (which is basically to regain control of our ability to chose and be proactive in our views) especially as it extends well beyond the scope of tobacco, is potentially a very powerful political force that, with enough visibility, could foreseeably change the way our government looks at the control of its population and better define the risks governments take in supporting tax-driven, social engineering schemes. We at RYO Magazine are dedicated to the prospect of accurate and fair information regardless of subject, as well as the uncompromising appreciation of quality above profit. Profit will come from quality and have more lasting benefits as well. We also believe that given complete and honest data, humans are more than capable of making wise decisions. With the recent increases in taxation on packaged cigarettes in so many states, even greater interest is being directed at this magazine and the industry as a whole - this is increasing daily. We feel an obligation to play it straight with our readers, who come from every point of view imaginable, from every continent on the planet, as they are our most valuable resource.
As MYO becomes more well known, some will say it is just another way to encourage people to smoke. While patently untrue for now, the industry must be wise enough to never take that path regardless of the possible financial rewards. Smoking is self-indulgent, private behavior and, if conducted responsibly, in moderation, and away from those who want no part of it, it MAY one day prove to be less of a health risk. We can only go by what we hear from our readers, personal acquaintances and our own personal observations. That is, that package cigarette smokers who convert to the MYO methodology tend to smoke less, appreciate the flavor of tobacco more, and eventually gain control to the point that tobacco is a freely chosen, occasional treat and often they eventually smoke so little that their one or two cigarettes a week are quite possibly of little consequence to their overall health. Certainly less so than poor diet and lack of exercise. Providing that kind of alternative to the lifestyle of millions who may be damaging their health smoking pack after pack of manufactured cigarettes daily, we feel can only be viewed as an improvement. Smoking tobacco or breathing in any kind of smoke or other particulate matter must certainly pose some health risk. Our aim is to find the truth as to dosage and degree of risk. However, since we are convinced that the MYO method has improved the lives of many smokers already, attracting more current smokers to an environment where quitting is far easier and moderation is a fact, seems a worthy enterprise.
Have some fun today and appreciate the good times. Until next time - Doug
Check out the links below and keep abreast of what is happening in the tobacco wars. These areas directly effect you and your right to smoke as well as other endangered freedoms more and more every day. Keep in mind though, that our position remains that non-smokers should not be exposed to other's smoke. We feel that businesses that want a smoking environment should have that choice and be able to discriminate against potential employees and customers who do not smoke. The reverse is in wide practice already - the ed.
1. http://www.tobacco.org - A pretty comprehensive site with pertinent tobacco issues definitely skewed towards anti-tobacco but with some minor balanced exposure to other sides of the question. We suggest you keep abreast of what is there as it is always good to both know what the potential enemies of free choice are up to as well as experience for yourself some of the absolute unsubstantiated and anecdotal twaddle that is thrust into the hands of the media and Congress. This site is a perfect example of why we need much more scientifically sound and current research on tobacco and health. This site is interesting if for no other reason that it will keep you up to date on the Draconian legislation that lies ahead that your vote might affect.
2. http://www.forces.org - FORCES - A national smoker's rights organization
3. http://www.fujipub.com/fot - Friends of Tobacco - A Tobacco and Smoking information clearing house
4. http://www.junkscience.com - A highly entertaining site exposing fraudulent and expensive scientific extrapolations.
5. http://thomas.loc.gov - Current, past, and pending legislative actions, bills, and sponsors - a huge resource.
6. http://www.smokerscorner.al.ru - A new Eastern European site with a variety of informational sections & services
7. 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 although research organizations have been painfully slow to comply.
8. http://www.dor.state.or.us/tobacco/cig-tax-law.html - This is the new tobacco law in the State of Oregon - Amazing!
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, even though we are being redundant, we strongly suggest you read 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 and the enormous cost of the sheering. A great many people have bought this book after seeing it here and it is our hope that more will do so. This is the kind of detailed ammunition that is going to be a prerequisite to any porgress mae in separating the truth from the myths about tobacco. It is vital you read this devastating chronology of how we got to where we now find ourselves as it chronicles not only the specifics but the mechanisms that forces use to limit the rights of members of a free society. It is more than a pro tobacco book. It is a manual for future confrontations with those that are bent on controlling our lives so they look like theirs.
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 subscribe 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.|
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