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Valley tobacco shop owners blame Obama for snuffing out business

(Photo: Jim Cross/KTAR)

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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About the Author


Position: Senior News Reporter. Started with KTAR July 4, 1999.

Favorite food: Steak and shrimp, and any food on campouts.

Favorite spots in Arizona: Pinetop-Lakeside, Alpine, Greer.

Favorite news memory: The Wallow Fire in 2011 became the largest fire in state history. Rodeo-Chediski Fire in June 2002, which is the second largest fire in Arizona. The 2007 Southern California Firestorm and being at Sky Harbor Airport when the first plane lifted off several days after 9-11. Seeing the American flag on the tail of the Salt Lake City-bound Delta airliner as it took off still gives me goosebumps.

Favorite movies: True Grit, both 1969 John Wayne classic and the remake with Jeff Bridges -- which was outstanding --, Lonesome Dove.

First job: Spinning records at KLER Radio Orofino, Idaho 1980.

First concert: KISS/Cheap Trick 1977 Spokane, WA Coliseum.

Sports Teams: Washington State University Cougars, The University of Montana Grizzlies and Texas Rangers.

Outside interests: Sports, camping, fishing, traveling.

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