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Friday, March 18, 2011

Meet Portland's New Tax-Evading, Roll Your Own Cigarette Robot

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Fri, Mar 18, 2011 at 4:14 PM

The back corner of Dan Miner's Hollywood Liquor store has been taken over by a giant brown cabinet worth over $30,000. This hulking contraption is the first roll your own cigarette machine available in any liquor store in the state. Not only will it roll you a carton of cigarettes in about eight minutes, the cost per carton is currently only $29.95—about half of what a carton usually costs.

The low price is thanks to the lower state and federal taxes levy on roll your own tobacco versus packs of cigarettes. According to the Portland Tribune, the state estimates it will lose $7.13 in taxes for every carton sold from the newfangled machine.

But it's a deal too good to pass up, so I brought along Mercury distro chief and experienced smoker (he's been at it since age 12!) Jay Williams to see how it worked.

The mysterious device.
  • The mysterious device.

The big machine is technically called an "RYO Filling Station" and is made by an Ohio-based company.

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Innards

First, Jay choose a style of filter and loaded into a metal box that we noted looked a lot like the Ghostbuster's ghost trap. Miner and the Hollywood Liquor workers aren't allowed to help out—even though it's a robot that does the rolling, you have to be the one to load it up.

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Jay then sticks the metal filter box into the machine and pours a bunch of tobacco into the top of the device. On a computer screen, he chooses the coarseness and then hits "start."

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The machine makes a rumbling, whirring noise and, after a few seconds, starts spitting out cigarettes one by one into a plastic box. Jay collates them in a carton, acknowledging that the process of actually sitting and waiting and packing the cigs makes him feel like an addict.
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The whole process is only supposed to take eight minutes, but the machine jammed during our visit and it took a while of tweaking its innards to get it rolling again. Jay eventually did get his smokes, though, and was very pleased. He couldn't tell the difference between them and his usual cancerstick of choice, American Spirits.

Smoke on, Jay!

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