Federal law bans "roll your own" tobacco machines in Wisconsin


A lawsuit that gave the “roll your own” tobacco industry a temporary victory in Wisconsin is likely moot now that a new federal law is closing roll-your-own machines throughout the country.

The industry initiated the Wisconsin lawsuit last year after state regulators started shutting down roll-your-own cigarette machines. The high-tech machines let smokers avoid high cigarette taxes. The smoker just had to buy loose tobacco and cigarette tubes–the machine would do the rest at a discounted price.

The roll-your-own industry won its early battles in court, getting orders from a Dane County judge that kept the machines running in Wisconsin. But that was before a federal law signed last week changed everything. It requires the machines to be licensed and requires their product to be taxed more like cigarettes. The law pleased anti-smoking groups like Health First Wisconsin. Executive Director Maureen Busalacchi. “We’re happy that all cigarettes will be charged the same tax level that discourages youth from starting to smoke and certainly helps adults reduce or quit and hopefully quit for good,” she says.

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An attorney for the roll your own industry’s Wisconsin lawsuit sent a letter to the judge this week saying the federal law likely moots the case and that the parties are talking about how it should be dismissed.

There are reports of roll-your-own businesses closing throughout Wisconsin. One of the parties to the lawsuit posted a terse message to its website saying it would not be buying back any machines or parts.