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'Roll your own' cigarettes in N.Y. battle

Dec. 7, 2011 at 2:14 PM

NEW YORK, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- The owner of Brooklyn's first roll-your-own cigarette shop says he hopes New York tax authorities will allow him to operate.

Jack Wang, 43, said he opened City Smokes on Coney Island Avenue last week not knowing the city's Law Department is already suing two similar stores over tax evasion, the New York Daily News reported Tuesday.

At the heart of the battle are automatic rolling machines, where customers insert an empty cigarette tube filling it with loose tobacco purchased at the shops, thereby avoiding the $7.47 in federal, state, and city taxes on a pack of pre-packaged cigarettes.

A pack of customer-rolled cigarettes at City Smokes costs $3.25.

"I don't want to fight with the city. I don't want any trouble," Wang, who has a dozen of the machines, said Tuesday. "I need to pay the rent. I have no choice."

The city filed suits against two other shops Nov. 14.

"These 'roll-your-own' businesses sell cigarettes in disregard of tax and other regulatory statutes applicable to cigarettes, claiming that the business owners do not sell cigarettes, but merely 'facilitate' the customers' assembly of the cigarettes themselves," city officials said in a statement in November.

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