Local smokers are fuming after a Brandon roll-your-own cigarette store had to close only days after reopening. In an email this weekend customers were told:
Due to a recent federal government ruling has been ordered to "CEASE AND DESIST" until we are granted a Federal restraining order. Please continue to leave us your name, phone number, and email address so we can contact you when we are back up and rolling.
The Tobacco Road store at 948 West Brandon Blvd. is one of 13 roll-your-own stores in Central Florida operated by Good Times Pinellas.
The market for roll-your-own cigarettes exploded in 2010 after the federal tax tobacco rose dramatically. Roll-your-own shops use pipe tobacco which is taxed at a much lower rate. While 10 packs (200 cigarettes) of Marlboro Lights can cost north of $60, 200 cigarettes at a roll-your-own store typically costs around $20-25.
A federal transportation bill signed into law earlier this month appeared to be the death knell for roll-your-own stores nationwide. Under a small amendment attached to the bill roll-your-own stores are termed “tobacco manufacturers” just like larger cigarette manufacturers. Facing the same taxes and federal regulations as their giant competitors like Philip Morris USA, the change looked like it would all but eliminate the roll-your-own market niche.
An injunction issued by a federal district court in Ohio had appeared to put the brakes on any enforcement of the new law.
“Because of the injunction … the Alcohol, Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau is not currently processing applications or providing any regarding the administration or enforcement,” said bureau officials, in a statement on the group's Web site July 25.
Alcohol, Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau, a division of the U.S. Treasury Department, is the federal agency tasked with enforcing the new law.
However, it now appears the stores will not be allowed to reopen. Roll-your-own stores across the country have joined a suit challenging the law.
Until the legal wrangling is resolved, roll-your-own stores will remain closed.
Good Times has been in business two years and employs 55 people at 13 stores in New Port Richey, Holiday, Lakeland, Plant City, Largo, Pinellas Park, St. Petersburg, Zephyrhills and Tampa. Florida is home to some 80 roll-your-own stores, second only to Pennsylvania.