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Updated Jul 9, 2012 - 6:18 am

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."

About the Author

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

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

Have covered some of the biggest stories in Arizona including nine of the top 10 largest wildfires in state history. 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. Covered the Yarnell Hill Tragedy in June 2013 that left 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots dead.

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

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


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