City Smokes, the latest in a New York City trend of “roll your own cigarette” stores, has opened at 2695 Coney Island Avenue, the former site of Easy Leasing.
The store sells cheap cigarettes – $29.95 for a carton, according to a sign outside – but there’s a catch: you’ve got to roll them yourself.
RYOC stores provide their own blends of tobacco, usually designed to emulate the flavors from the big brands, and provide machines, papers and filters for rolling. By doing this, they manage to sell their wares as loose tobacco, which has much lower tax rates than pre-rolled cigarettes. There are only a handful of such stores operating in the city, and this appears to be the only one in Brooklyn.
But City Smokes is coming to town at a dubious time. Just last month, New York City filed a lawsuit against RYOC operators in Staten Island and Manhattan, claiming they’re illegally skirting tax laws and are effectively selling rolled cigarettes. If the City wins the case, City Smokes won’t have much of a business model.
What do you think? Should these be taxed as rolled cigarettes, or as loose tobacco?