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Updated Jul 9, 2012 - 6:18 am

Valley tobacco shop owners blame Obama for snuffing out business

PHOENIX — Rami Sweis with Big Bear Tobacco in Phoenix said a tiny
amendment buried in the federal transportation bill signed Friday by the
president could leave him no choice but to shut down the roll-your-own
machines.

“They’re about $32,000 a piece. I personally have, with my partner, 14
machines that we invested in,” Sweis said.

His business, and about 30 others in Arizona, feature large machines
customers can use to create cigarettes from loose tobacco and empty
paper tubes purchased in the store.

But the new transportation bill included
an amendment that requires such businesses to get manufacturing
permits, put health warnings on packages and pay additional taxes on the
cigarettes those machines produce. As a result, roll-your-own
prices will soar and customers were upset Friday.

“I probably won’t go back to the manufacturers that are
pushing this through,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sweis said customers will be forced to purchase
cigarettes at convenience stores or other retail outlets at two or three times
the price. He will have to lay off workers, he said, but he can stay in
business.

“It will most likely shut down the stores that are only established because
of the machines.”

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