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Roll Your Own Tobacco Businesses In Jeopardy

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(Credit: KDKA)

(Credit: KDKA)

Andy Sheehan Andy Sheehan
KDKA-TV Investigator Andy Sheehan began his broadcast journalism...
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DORMONT (KDKA) — Empty a bag of loose tobacco into a rolling machine and within a minute’s time it will begin filling tiny paper tubes and start spitting out cigarettes – all at a significant savings for the customers of the Rock ‘N Roll Your Own Tobacco Shop in Dormont.

“If I buy two cartons in a week that’s $130,” Cindy White said. “And I’m only spending about $50, $52, so I’m saving a lot.”

But that will all be coming to end if President Obama signs a bill that will basically shutter shops like this one.

“It will effectively put me out of business within two weeks,” Joe Szatkowski said.

There are now dozens of roll your own operations in the region which have been exempted from cigarette taxes much to the chagrin of the big tobacco companies who pay must them.

But under a $109 billion transportation bill that has passed both the House and Senate, shops like this will have to pay those taxes and get manufacturing permits.

In this David and Goliath fight, big tobacco will prevail over little guys like Szatkowski.

“When you start hitting large corporations in the pocket, they want to make their voice heard and push their money around and this is where we stand today,” he said.

When Obama comes to CMU on Friday, Szatkowski and other roll your own operators will try to get within earshot of the president.

“If we get enough people to show up at least our voice will heard,” he said.

The bill is expected to reach Obama’s desk Friday afternoon.

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