People of Northwest Public Radio
Tue June 26, 2012
Judge Blocks Tax On Roll Your Own Cigarettes
Currently you can walk out of a tobacco shop with a pack of roll-your-own cigarettes for about $5.50. A pack of Marlboros will put you back almost twice that much. That’s because tobacco shops don’t charge the same tax on roll-your-own cigarettes as they would for pre-packaged cigarettes.
David Harkins from the Attorney General’s Office says that’s not fair.
Harkins: "The definition of a cigarette is any roll for smoking made wholly, or in part, of tobacco with a wrapper or a cover made of paper. So consumers that go in and buy these cigarettes from a cigarette making machine, they’re already libel for the tax. They should be paying the cigarette tax."
Earlier this year the legislature passed a law that would have taxed roll-your-own cigarettes just like retail cigarettes. But opponents say the new law is unconstitutional because it’s charging a new tax.
Weiss: "It was an entirely new scheme that was created to reach this area that was previously not taxed and not regulated by the state."
That’s Chris Weiss. He’s the lead attorney representing tobacco shops that sell your roll-your own products. They argue that the new law would be bad for business because it would raise the price of a pack of roll-your-own cigarettes by three dollars.
Weiss says the new law should have been subject to the required two-thirds majority vote that’s necessary in Washington to pass any new tax. The new law did not pass the senate with a 2/3 vote.
The court agreed with Weiss. The price of roll-your-own cigarettes was supposed to rise on July 1st. But, for now – the price will stay the same. The state is considering appealing the decision.
Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network