| One of the
most exciting things to ever emerge in the RYO arena was the ability to produce a
periodical that substantially exists in real time. There is little or no time lag between
conception, execution and distribution. No waiting for printing presses and no fear that
something vital has been left out and must remain absent until the next issue goes to
print. This current issue will be the culmination of 20 years of publication. It may well
be my last. There is always good news and bad but of all the things in life that interest
me, I have found the world of RYO to be among the most fascinating.. Now, of course, such
is life in general and accordingly, so to is it for the world of tobacco enthusiasts. Many
things have happened in the last few months regarding the initial focus of this cover
article. While we will go into great detail in the EDITORIAL section
about the many SERIOUS issues that face our relationship with the
Internet, one major event has occurred that should strike at the very heart of all
of those involved within the RYO industry, For now we will explore the fascinating subject
of the FULL CIRCLE, a Reality that is happening as I
I have been convinced that the Full Circle of the highest quality RYO ever seen would come back around, though I honestly did not expect it to take 20 YEARS. When I started this magazine in the year 2000, I felt convinced way back then, that once people tried really amazingly superior tobacco, placed in tubes of their choosing, dwarfing the quality and significance of even the finest premanufactured brand, that this concept would be the way everyone who chose to smoke would eventually enjoy smoking and it would be possible for purveyors of sheer excellence to do quite well financially as well. Having first been introduced to RYO, or Custom Made Cigarettes, a term I have used consistently for over two decades, the story begins.
The Full Circle actually started for me in about 1996-8. when Costco, who used to sell a generic brand of smokes referred to as Bonus Value in Alaska where I lived at the time, stopped selling them. These, though a heavily discounted brand, were among the finest cigarettes I had ever smoked and a lot less expensive than Marlboros and although I was not shopping for Cheap, I found them to be much better than any brand name cigarette I had tried including Marlboros.
The Circle acturally begins in the mid 80's and early 90's when Peter Stokkebye, perhaps the one true icon of the rolling tobacco industry, certainly at least in the US, and a good friend, began bringing rare tobaccos from around the world into the US. Peter with 4 generations of pipe tobacco history in his family in Denmark, knew it was time to show American smokers the vast possiblities of what a truly dedicated maker of tobacco blends could accomplish for the cigarette smoker. We did several biographical sketches on Peter and the Stokkebye company over the years, and his products, and his presence, have been felt in every issue of this magazine. Most prominent was a biography here in one of the first issues of RYO Magazine of Peter, as well as an interesting three way conversation between Peter, Arnold Kastner, founder of CTC, the Clinton Tube Company and original maker of the first Supermatic injector and myself in issue 1 where we explored the future of RYO/MYO in the US. Needless to say it was an intriguing moment for myself and for all concerned, including those readers who happened to stumble on the first issue of the magazine. Peter, Arnold and I began a journey rich with attention and rewards as few have enjoyed
Peter lived a most interesting life, encompassing situations ranging from near royal status to struggling entrepreneur. Things were not always easy but seem to have been always interesting in his adventure. His book, which is nearly impossible to find nowadays was part biography, and part history, concerned a wide time span of tobacco development, and is understandably fascinating. This personal look at several generations of people, who ultimately formed the foundations of the Stokkebye company, takes one on a very people oriented historical journey sharing enjoyable and instructive insights into the surprisingly common experiences of each era. It is not as dry as most histories. Nor is it as self involved as most biographies. While not a major literary work, it is one of the most honest and down to earth dialogues of how people lived, took chances, failed, and prospered during the last several centuries. Tobacco is the main backdrop but the personal experiences of our ancestors gives one a great deal of insight into the possible consequences for those who may fear risk, change, and challenge. These experiences speak eloquently of the fact that such risk taking, even if unsuccessful most of the time, points us inevitably in new directions and, in the end, quite frequently leads to not only more interesting, fulfilling lives, but more profitable ones as well.
Peter passed away in 2006 but his influence on the rolling tobacco industry will never be forgotten and cannot be overestimated. His memory is burned into the hearts and minds of everyone who knew or talked to him and will have lasting presence in all those who use the products he helped to create. However, life goes on. We have all had losses but life DOES go on. This is an industry that will thrive on transparency, honesty, and access. The mistakes of the big cigarette companies, with their secret boardroom philosophies and profits first at any cost attitude, must never in the future. But to be taken to heart by a wary consumer public, personalities must emerge to illuminate the honest caring approach indicative of most of the true but rarified rolling tobacco industry.
One of companies that both Peter and I talked a lot about was CTC (Clinton Tube), makers of the Supermatic as well as many brands of popular filter tubes. During our many conversations, one of the most frequently occurring themes we discussed was that, for this market to continue to grow, Americans, by and large, were going to want a manufactured looking cigarette. Peter, having spent so much time in Europe, was well aware of the fact that Europeans are far more likely to roll their own cigarettes than are we here in the US.
Americans ostensibly want the finished look and, likewise, overwhelmingly enjoy the filtration provided by filtered cigarettes. In my experience with smokers of packaged brands, the transition from their usual smoke to the RYO/MYO world was almost never successful when they had to hand roll their smokes, even if they could do it rather efficiently. And while we greatly respect the many manufacturers who are participating in this great experiment with ever improving hand held, slide type injectors, it is our profound opinion that the future success of this industry relies on the much easier to use Supermatic and Excel style of machine. This is not news to readers of this magazine but we focus on this one principle as much as we do in the hopes that, not only more people will become familiar with these marvelous machines but that other manufacturers will more aggressively explore this basic premise as well. CTC pretty much has the patents sewn up for their specific model designs and it took many years to perfect that design so it will not be easy to come up with a fresh approach that accomplishes the task of making one's own cigarettes in as efficient a way. Consequently, CTC has the both exciting and arduous task before them of continuing to produce consistent quality innovations on their initial themes as well as leading the industry in new product designs as well. Hence from CTC we see an opportunity for an icon to emerge. And no one is more visible than CTC's own Stephane David.
He is young, energetic, and very popular with competitors and customers alike. His knowledge of his company's products and its capabilities is profound. Stephane and his crew are a fixture at every trade show CTC participates in, which is nearly every one of the major events held worldwide. His background comes from the jewelry business and while he has been with CTC since 1997, well before the current US MYO boom, this background exhibits itself in his ability to constantly envision and enforce the evolving mechanical quality of CTC's injectors and their other products as well. His critical eye knows instinctively when something is right, and listens, from a workmanship perspective, intently to those who may have a problem with a CTC product. He then, along with CTC President and CEO, Garry Garbarino, engages in highly aggressive campaigns that address any and all weak points. Much like Peter Stokkebye's absolute and proactive dedication to excellence as a matter of personal pride, these two guys, along with an extremely capable staff are about as proactive as leaders can and should be and are seemingly tireless in their quest for continued improvement. Like Peter, Stephane can be tough when it is called upon, but is usually diplomatically measured in his actions in order to obtain the best result rather than simply satisfying his own ego. But does all of the above make an icon? Not in and of itself, but there is a lot more to Stephane's persona than the dedicated, diplomatic, yet aggressive producer of product.
Stephane is a special leader in that he has a presence that transcends his duties as Executive Vice President of International Sales for CTC. He is one of the most sought after companions for after show social events and is as versatile as a social force as he is as a business executive. He has widely diverse interests and is always ready to try something new, and afterwards, articulate efficiently on the results. Even wearing a down home cowboy hat we coerced him into buying this year during the RTDA in Nashville, he seemed as at home as any local #%$@-kicker. The point is Stephane has that rare quality that enamoured Peter to so many and that is the ability to fit in just about anywhere and, more than fit, make an immediate, lasting, and dominant impression. You may not know why or what precisely hits you, but one certainly feels the impact. One can tell a lot about an executive by the talent he hires and even the feisty, hard to please like Ric Glaubinger of RYO Tobacco (at right) can be soothed by Stephane's well chosen executive assistant, Tamara Esseili.
We took some time during the latest RTDA (as we have at other shows over the past three years) to get him away from the professional environment of the exhibitor booth. This time Linda, our associate editor and I dragged Stephane and his group, including his brilliant and fetching assistant Tamara, and Anthony Liem, GM of the New York CTC facility, to the General Jackson sternwheeler for a afternoon/evening cruise and dinner on the Cumberland River. It is in settings like this that one truly begins to fully realize just how enjoyable this man is to be around. When he dealt with a waitress, bartender, or steward, he not only got what he wanted but you could sense that unmistakable joy people have when dealing with magnetic personalities. We find that to be an absolute requirement for someone who would become a/the public face of MYO. When all is said and done, we can think of no more affable man to represent this expanding industry. We haven't bothered to ask him directly if he wants this kind of notoriety (though we have jabbed him a few times with vaguely defined possibilities) and frankly, whether he does or not, I personally think he is going to find himself in that position. Perhaps one of several, but he will certainly be an integral part of the new public face(s) of MYO.
There are, of course, many other folks who have great presence and knowledge of the rolling industry. One of the most, if not the most, knowledgeable people we know in this business when it comes to tobacco is Mark Ryan of D&R Tobacco. Mark has been at this serious but enjoyable task since 1992 when he left the corporate world of Richmond, Virginia and along with his doctor wife, moved to Smithfield, North Carolina, pursuing his dream of developing and improving tobacco blends. He has developed blends far and above the norm in quality that is characteristic of most US prepared bulk tobaccos. He is also extremely proactive in the politics of tobacco, and has developed important relationships with both BATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms - who regulate interstate tobacco distribution and Federal taxation) and NAAG (The National Association of Attorneys General - who define and monitor the MSA). His published proposals and recommendations for more efficient and fair practices regarding these two agency's handling of their various duties and requirements are powerful documents and are viewed with respect in very high places. His common sense approach to enforcement of existing regulation could well result ultimately in not only better enforcement, but a more level playing field that more clearly defines and executes the intent of the law. And Mark is an impressive figure as well. Showing up in formal tuxedo at the shows he talks with everyone and is well received and respected by all in this business. His enthusiasm for American tobacco and its potential as a world class finished product is powerful and contagious. His company has at least fifteen blends at the moment with the latest five being as good as anything one can find anywhere in the world. He has nine newer blends that are even more spectacular and there seems to be no limit to his ability to ever upgrade the quality curve. Much of his newest stuff is still in the proprietary stage so we can not go into details here but having had the opportunity to try them, I can assure you that the American tobacco smoker is going to reap great benefits from this man's intense creative explorations.
And yet, you always see before you a gentle and engaging soul (notwithstanding the "Girls Gone Wild beads you see him wearing in the photo above right - the beads came from the RTDA show but we harassed him to no end about their similarity to the GGW decorations - note: no nudity required). He is relaxed and kind and very smart. A great document writer and researcher, his knowledge comes from an intense desire to get it right. Articulate, well versed on world events, and with a great sense of humor, he can sell you on a product well before you realize a sale is being conducted. His company, like Peter Stokkebye International, and CTC, though both are much larger than D&R presently, gives every impression of being a family enterprise. There are no disgruntled co-workers and his dad, Bill Ryan, though not a participant in the company per se, is as much fun as is Mark and certainly quicker on the dance floor. He attracts a truly outstanding group of sentient beings. Shown at right with Steve Coley of RC Owen, a major producer if fine Burleys, editor Linda, and Mark's dad, along with Betty who was at the show but not in this photo and Patsy who is in charge of sales, who was not in attendance this time, one could not ask for a more entertaining and informed group of tobacco folks
Because of the quality of his new blends, his location, and his connections at the grower and cutting operation level and his dedication to future improvements as well as his proactive political and regulatory participation, we feel Mark Ryan is an ideal candidate for one of, or THE face of MYO/RYO. Again, we repeat that none of the folks described on this page are "running" for this position. Given our perceived need for such icons, we feel it inevitable that Mark and all that we note in this article are badly needed to fill such a roll. The American public likes to associate a face with their products, a practice that instills brand loyalty and inspires the public to the necessary participation that is needed in future negotiations regarding tobacco regulations.
Of course, let us not forget that there are a number of dynamic faces at Stokkebye itself, perhaps none more popular or with higher visibility than Brian Levine. Brian, as the above two gentlemen, represents his company at every trade show we know of and is a real character. Unforgettable and funny, this articulate man is always the hit of any party and his level headed business side balances well with his gregarious nature. We do not mean to minimize the importance of the actual company head, Erik Stokkebye, Peter's son, but Erik is much more involved with product development and other behind the scene functions, at the highest level in the company, and we have yet to see him at any of the events we have attended. We assume he likes the role of commander-in-chief, without the glare of the spotlight. Consequently, we do not know how his personality would play as a public figure. We are also not sure of the willingness of the Stokkebye company to let any of its upper management executives like Brian, or the absolutely charming Morgan Snead, another show popular, to represent a wider role than those specific to their respective positions within the Stokkebye company. With Peter they had no choice. The spotlight was his best friend. Even after his retirement he remained fully in control of his itinerary, focusing mostly on his company's pipe tobacco segment, which was his professional first love.
Though Brian and Morgan certainly have the recognition that would be required to make the leap from a specific company representative to overall rolling tobacco icon, each have very different personalities. Brian is an absolute character. His pranks are legend and any time you watch him carefully (which is a wise recommendation), he always seems to be planning his next unexpected leap. He's a born entertainer, as Peter was, and would do well even under the most demanding of adversarial situations, which is an unfortunate requirement of being a representative of tobacco in this politically charged environment. He is smart and quick afoot, and can make the transition from very serious and knowledgeable businessman to aggressive take charge leader in the blink of an eye. And most appropriately, always with a great sense of humor.
Morgan approaches the business and his relationships within it from a different perspective. He is a gentleman, very measured and thoughtful and his gentle kindness is impossible to mask or resist, no matter how hard he may try to remain out of the limelight. I guess, if you could mix the two personalities together in a big pot and create one face, these two would, in many ways, be much like Peter himself. Brian would tear Bill O'Reilly apart never losing the wily smile on his face, while Morgan would provide an elegant, true southern gentleman-like dignity in a less contentious format. He is one of the sweetest people we know and that quality could and does endear him to a very large number of people, the folks at this magazine most assuredly included. It will be interesting to see the above mentioned individuals reaction to our premise and how their respective companies view such enhanced public visibility for each of them.
The very fact that all of the men we have spoken of here each have their own unique qualities should illustrate the difficulty in filling the void left by Peter Stokkebye's passing. Though Peter was not, at least overtly, politically active in the tobacco debate per se, he imparted such elegance to the subject matter, that he could have at any time assumed that battle effectively. And Peter had a fiery side as well that few people saw, but one that on occasion, we experienced and found most impressive.
The search for a "face" to put on this industry, while not an immediate emergency, is in our opinion, one that had better be instituted soon. The RYO/MYO industry faces a number of issues it must address in the near term that could significantly affect its future. Regulation, taxation, and the appearance that somehow those that are endeared to this methodology are cleverly avoiding the preceding fiscal and regulatory negatives that face packaged cigarette users are issues that are going to bite this industry in the butt eventually unless some proactive, pre-eminent strategies are developed. The fact is MYO/RYO tobacco users pay an equally fair share (if any revenue scheme can be deemed fair) just like pre-made users. The regulatory scenarios are somewhat different but are well in place.
Now there are those in this industry that have approached me as perhaps an ideal candidate to lead the public media end of the unavoidable forthcoming battles. I do like to speak in front of crowds and I do research rather well. However, I have little patience for the dogmatic, knee jerk reactions by my fellow humans, and have a real problem listening to those who base decisions for their behavior and controlling the behavior of others, on weak science or, even worse, FAITH. I also don't like to dress up and would find it difficult to wear the "suit." Certainly, I do have less of a conflict of interest as I do not work for, or sell products on behalf of any company in this industry and, therefore, could be viewed as having a more arbitrary position. I'd probably need a hair cut though. More to the point however, my level of impatience and my temperament may not allow me to exercise diplomacy when faced with the idiotic deceptions and mindless repetitive twaddle of skewed science from alarmists and greedy opportunists who babble incessantly as to what is in OUR best interest. I believe so strongly in individual responsibility, quality, accuracy, and most importantly, scientific integrity, that I rarely find myself able to mask my absolute intolerance for those that bend the rules of ethical behavior or whine about something they've have done knowingly to themselves. Yeah, with proper documentation, I would tear the anti-tobacco parasites a new one, and frankly, would relish the confrontation, but there is the risk that I might just as likely come off as a real jerk which, in the silly putty world of PR, may win the battle but lose the war. Besides there are so many to choose from and the idea that utilizing the public face of many individuals to represent this industry, rather than a single person, seems far more logical.
There is no doubt that the "ideal" face for RYO/MYO would be a compilation of the many fine people who work within it. Men like Rudiger Stuhlmuller of Gizeh USA, the Helms family (Tom Jr., Kent and Tom III) of North Atlantic (Zig-Zig USA), the dynamic Don Levin of Republic Tobacco, Brad Abrams of Wind River Tobacco, Reagan Brewer of Lane. LTD, Larry Diamond of H.J. Bailey, Charley from HBI, and many, many others, could form a cadre of proactive and accessible talent, each with their own fields of expertise. All of these people have great presence, some more than others, and know the subject matter well. This may ultimately be a better strategy than simply creating a single "General" to represent this very special segment of the "tobacco" industry. There are also quite a number of talented women in this industry, but at this point, few have the visibility or positions of authority of many of their male counterparts. That is something that seriously needs looking at as well, as knowledgeable, strong, and articulate women can make every bit as efficient spokespersons, particularly when much of the battle ahead may well hinge on the emotional reactions of the public at large when confronted with more realistic research data. In any case, for the sake of this industry's future, it is now time to begin thinking in terms of serious and transparent public relations and public figures, as the battles that lie ahead may likely be more serious and potentially devastating than those of the past, and in the same vein, the possibility for sensible, logic-based solutions and subsequent victories may be not only extremely robust, but more attainable than many may presently think. We will discuss this matter frequently in future issues, so for now let me simply say, on behalf of all of our readers and friends in this industry, a hearty "Until Later" to a great man, Peter Stokkebye. We wish his family, both personal and professional, well and share deeply in their loss, and we sincerely hope they have received our dialogue concerning future icons for the industry with the respect and gratitude with which it was intended. I know for a fact that Peter had great hopes for the growth of this industry and his vision always included a big room approach, one where a great many people contributed to an enhanced life experience for all.
Before you read the article below, you should be aware that there is, currently, far reaching legislation before Congress regarding the use of the Internet for tobacco sales and distribution. While both Senate Bill 1177 (S1177) and House Resolution 2824 (HR2824) were initially proposed to restrict contraband cigarettes, these Bills have been expanded (as is so often typical) to include other tobacco products including roll your own. While it has always been our premise here that people obey the law and that even buying tobacco over the Internet does not lessen the purchaser's obligation to pay appropriate state taxes, there are some who have the view that by purchasing online they AVOID these extra taxes. While in reality, the way the system is set up makes it difficult for the states to gather information on who is receiving tobacco from outside their state, new state laws are addressing this issue as we speak. Now we honor the state's laws at all times. Therefore until either the laws can be changed or more likely, NEW lawmakers can be elected who have a more rational approach to the idea of taxing minority groups like smoker's to make up for budgetary shortfalls, it remains the responsibility of the recipient of the tobacco to pay the tax.
These new laws, however, are designed to put the burden of collecting the tax on the internet SELLER. Now while we again are adamant in obeying the law, we feel that this new strategy is ill-conceived and requires online dealers to interact with an extremely complex and inefficient bureaucracy which may likely have dramatically different standards of reporting and regulation for each of the 50 states. This could well spell disaster for the small business trying to make a living selling a legal product such as tobacco. Even more of concern, as will be addressed in the article below, is the fact that this could well be the beginning of serious efforts to regulate ALL internet commerce. There are Constitutional issues here as well as other free trade and interstate commerce questions that will be generated by some of these Draconian measures. We think it is important for our readership and those they know to become immediately involved in this process. Almost no information other than the links we will provide in a moment has been shared with the public about these new legislative instruments. The public has NEVER been given their rightful opportunity to weigh in on the Bills that are not only being proposed but are actually very close to passing, ultimately for the President's signature. No news organization has even mentioned the existence of these Bills, and even CSPAN has completely neglected the subject. In fact, the only way one would find out about them is if they were active in watching both anti and pro tobacco sites or the Thomas.gov site we link to in every issue at page bottom.
We feel the secretive nature of this recent process raises a lot of questions as to its integrity. There are suggestions that Big cigarette companies are behind this, as well as the very powerful Convenience Store lobby. Regardless of who was responsible for adding rolling tobacco to these Bills, their motives are extremely suspect. The following link will get you started but is not entirely endorsed by RYO Magazine as being completely accurate. It will give you a box to click on so that you can reach your particular representatives as well as President Bush with your comments but some of what is there as to the FDA involvement, for instance, we have been unable to find in the current set of bills. Here is that link.
The Thomas link is also here where you can type in each of the Bills (HR2824, S1177, HR3184) in question and read their provisions (summaries are also available, but often are misleading, leaving out important details). In the Tables Below you will see first the House members on the committee in control of this legislation along with their e-mail address, followed by the Senate activity and sponsors. Phone calls and snail mail are often more effective than e-mails, but time is of the essence, so email first then call or send a letter. Make your concerns brief and to the point. Most of the Reps and Senators have websites as well with full contact info. Even if they are not from your state, your input is important and will be noticed. Use the link below to go to a great site that has each State represented in the table to get each member's contact information.
HR 3184 is also of interest as it concerns collection of sales taxes for Internet Sales of any product. Use the same scenario as above to find out about the bill and the various links to find out who sponsors it and who is on the committee. It is up to you if you really want control over your government. I e-mailed each one (and wrote quite a few letters as well). The e-mails took less than 30 minutes for both Houses of Congress. The fact is you'd better get ready to become more proactive than ever before. Our Government is becoming less rather than more transparent and we may one day find it very difficult to have any input at all if we allow this trend to persist.
Finally, one thing struck me about the first two Bills. Four out the twenty on the House committee were from Pennsylvania. That is a very high percentage considering the size of the state. When you later read the Editorial Section of this issue, take a look at Pennsylvania in the tables on that page. They (PA) have a $1.00 per pack tax on cigarettes, but with over a BILLION cigarette packs sold in the state in each of both years covered in the table, they collected only a little over $320 Million in cigarette revenue. Evidently, only one out of three packs were taxed. Makes no sense and though it might be attributed to Native American Reservation sale sources to some degree, it still begs the question of how do they know how many packs were sold if 2/3 were not reported for taxation. It is also interesting to note that two House members from Virginia (a major tobacco state with a very low tax) are involved in this. One certainly wonders where their "special interests" truly reside. There is a lot of back room BS going on in the Government at all levels, and if you don't get involved and stay currently knowledgeable, you've only yourself to blame as your freedoms and rights continue to dwindle. And they will - you can bet on it.
Up to now, the game known as the Internet is not fixed. It is still fair for all and the outcome uncertain. But . . .Regulation . . . after Regulation . . . after Regulation ... There is no doubt that regulation of any type bothers everyone at one time or another. And often the regulations that irk us most are the ones that affect our behavior and not that of our neighbors, or even society as a whole. Now smoking, or more specifically tobacco, is of course the primary example of regulation as concerns this magazine. For our neighbors who do not smoke, increased taxes on tobacco means more services from state and local jurisdictions. Disturbingly, these non-participants enjoy the same benefits of our tobacco tax dollars with no fiscal obligation on their part. But since our position on taxation against targeted groups, especially when the revenues accrued from such schemes is non-directed and scattered to the wind, is obvious and oft-stated, let us look instead this time at a potential crisis in the making that is threatening another activity common to many more people than smoking.
The World-Wide-Web - The Internet: Is our access and its freedom of use in danger? We adamantly believe so. So let's take a look at the options that will determine whether we go from Stonehenge to the Moon, or once again abandon the Moon as we did at the end of the Apollo era and revert to the antiquated symbolism of Stonehenge.
There is no more appropriate phrase than the immortal words of H.G. Wells in his opening line of "The War of The Worlds," to begin a discussion of the Internet. Those few words, "No one would have believed . . ." are an understatement to the power, growth and complexity that is the Internet. And it was all but unanticipated by even the wildest of speculative fiction, and surprisingly, even more so by those who helped to create it. What started out as a esoteric project for a handful of techno-academics has and will potentially transform our world - perhaps even more than the automobile, atomic energy, television, and ultimately, even the printed word. This for one simple reason. There is no formal regulation as to content, such as exists in other forms of communication media. No required alterations by editors who have fiscal and political agendas. And this unlimited ability to share intimate knowledge of concepts as esoteric as nuclear physics reminds one of the old adage from the era of the America West. "God created men, but Sam Colt made them equal." Well the Internet has given all of us the power to know or find out. And you can rely on the fact that Governments, by their very definition and nature, will often begin to fear and, subsequently, regulate a tool that provides its populace with this kind of powerful resource.
Additionally, there are other areas the Internet has and will transform, like personal transportation, - i.e., the automobile - where we may find that we don't need it nearly as much one day as we do now. Travel for personal and business reasons is and will remain a wonderful and necessary freedom in our society, but for acquiring many of the basic materials of an abundant life, frequent travel is very much less a necessity than it once was only a few years ago. Which brings me to the point of this piece. And that is the Internet, single handedly, has allowed all of us to shop the world for a diversity of goods we may not and probably won't find in our neighborhood stores. It also allows us to study and understand political systems (ours and others) and their motivations, exposing for all to see, their relative strengths and weaknesses. Specifically, this allows us to watch, in real time, the details of what our elected officials are up to. And most importantly, the Internet allows us in to be immediate and active participants in a much larger world with hugely expanding opportunities. But the FREEDOM to acquire items that are often not available locally is the single most important element of the web that is currently in serious jeopardy.
Certainly regulation has its purpose in a civilization, if for no other reason than humans are often tempted to do the most awful things possible with any new concept or technology. None of us (except for a few bulk e-mail marketers) have a problem with stringent regulations regarding SPAM (unsolicited e-mail advertisements or USEA) that are clogging the pipes of vital communication. There also needs to be far more powerful tracking and investigative tools and SERIOUS penalties for those who create and spread damaging worms and viruses. These are the kinds of regulation that the Internet needs to survive as a useful tool. However, the Internet regulation of which I speak concerns its commercial use for acquiring products that are often not available to us at our local retail environments. This potential threat to our rights to acquire could well spell the beginning of controls over our lives that could be catastrophic in redefining the meaning of the word FREEDOM itself. Let us never forget the importance of the catalogs from Sears, Wards and others who made it possible for people in remote areas to acquire then state of the art items that were likely never to be available locally. The great resources of the past were responsible for a large part for the incredibly rapid development of America. The Internet is today's JC Penny's catalog.
Now no doubt some likely use the commercial Internet simply to save money; to avoid sales and other forms of taxation; to get a better deal on items than ARE available from local sources. This is a by-product of the freedom to acquire from any source we choose, but should not be mistaken to be the ONLY reason many, many people buy online. The fact is, retail stores seldom (never) carry everything we want. Simple as that. In fact, often they carry what they think we want or carry limited quantities so that they can avoid inventory taxes and storage overhead. You can't blame them necessarily as one company cannot possibly stock every possible alternative within a product line. However, it is also true that many retailers have a very narrow view of their own product world and carry only those items they are familiar with or ones that aggressive distributors have taken the time to expose them to. To be fair, in some product segments, not all dealers can get the rights to carry some manufacturer's items. Nike, Sony, and other large manufacturers often have territorial controls on how many stores in an area can carry their line. Such blockades to wider selection for retailers notwithstanding, a great deal more of the responsibility for shortages of goods falls on the shoulders of the retailers themselves than on availability from manufacturers. We get mail constantly concerning our reader's inability to find certain well known brands of RYO/MYO items. I shop a lot online for everything from electronics, musical instruments, tools, shoes, and many other things. I do so not just to save money but because of the frustration I find when I try to find a product I know exists and am unable to find anywhere within driving distance. If local retailers in all product sectors wish to compete with the Internet, they better first educate themselves to the wide range of products that are available, and be prepared to stock those that are worthy of potential popularity, or at least have shown such demand, and get over the idea that the buying public will "settle" for what is available as if it were the only game in town. The "company store" approach strategies are obsolete. Get over it.
The real key here, of course, is education. Too often the person behind the retail counter has little knowledge of the products actually stocked much less the wide range of competing products his or her employer has chosen to ignore. In no business is this lack of knowledge more apparent than in the retail tobacco store. There was a time when you could enter a tobacco establishment (they were called Tobacconists back then) and have an interface with an incredibly knowledgeable person who knew practically every brand and nuance of the products of his trade. Stores like this are rare indeed today and I suspect the few that have that kind of knowledge behind the counter are still doing pretty well. Our experimental store certainly did in microcosm.
Retailers are putting up a pretty big squawk about their inability to compete with Internet sites, but larger retailers with more diverse inventories are far less vocal. In part, due to the fact that most of them have web driven sales mechanisms as well! In fact, nearly any retailer (sans perishable goods) could supplement their lost revenue by having web-based additions to their brick and mortar establishments. Many do already. The fact is that we owe nothing to a retailer who chooses to supply a limited inventory to a relatively captive audience regardless of price differential. Most especially a client base held captive by heavy handed governmental regulation against free trade should retain its freedom to shop elsewhere.
Let me share with you a personal example (and this is one of many that occurs in my little life on a weekly basis). I needed a good pair of walking shoes. I used the Internet to visit to the various manufacturers websites to see what products were available, especially newer improved versions of this particular recently growing product segment. I settled on either New Balance or Rockport, both of whom make fine shoes and are especially known for comfort. I like Saucony for running but I can at least find them at a Big 5 store a few miles away. However, they (Big 5) carried only one style of a possible three dozen of the Rockport line, and didn't even know NB was now making a true walking shoe. Had they had the shoes I wanted, I would have bought them on the spot even if they were a bit higher than the eventual online price I paid. But they didn't and didn't seem to care to increase any inventory until what they already had was sold. I'm sorry but that is not the way I shop and my patience for inventory to disappear so I can eventually get what I want is not the way I view the most advantageous exercise of capitalistic supply and demand. I bought the NB's online (at suggested retail - no discount) and had them on my feet in a few days. I now have what I want, arguably the best walking shoe ever made, and it took me less than 5 minutes once I decided on the Internet option. The brick and mortar search took several hours and quite a bit of driving to check out several stores. Yes, I could have called first (which I actually did) but it has been my experience that one may not always get accurate information from a busy clerk and I did want to see if something better was out there, readily available that perhaps I had missed. The point is for something as mundane as a good pair of #%%&#@^ walking shoes, I haven't the time for extended shopping forays. This scenario plays out daily all over the country, and the world, with frustrated consumers being given limited choices and is indicative of WHY the Internet will become the way people shop for a lot more things in the future regardless of sales taxes or other attempts at regulation. Now my purchase ultimately put little strain on my local highways (a UPS truck and about 10 watts of power for the transaction) whereas my physical search used many miles of highway, lots of gas, tire rubber, created pollution, all for the sake of trying to keep a local business in the green. Warm and fuzzy but not 21st century practical.
Now if you listen to the political wags in Congress who are waging this latest war on Internet commerce, you would get the impression they are truly feeling the pain of the local retailer and are trying to serve them better. Frankly, this is pure hogwash - to be polite. They are really talking about sales tax revenue for their respective state and local governments. And it is likewise nonsense to think that sales taxes, out of necessity, carry some kind of historical mandate. They are simply relatively new forms of fiscal extraction aimed at an altogether much too complacent populace. They were relatively insidious as they began as rather small annoyances. They were first instituted (and are still lauded) as a way to pay for the infrastructure necessary to allow local business to flourish (you know for roads, and parking, and sewers, and power lines, and phone lines). And some of the reasons were at least grounded in a certain if not somewhat "fuzzy" logic. However, they (sales taxes) now represent a much wider and more whimsical base of income which, like tobacco revenues, are often misused as funding for pockets not initially intended. The obvious fact is that Internet retailers don't need the infrastructure to anywhere near the degree that brick and mortars do, so why should they pay (really their customers pay) the same rate. This debate has been raging in Congress over the past several years (nearly a decade) and its resolution has been postponed several times by the Clinton and Bush administrations as well as by Congress itself. But that will change if proactive citizens fail to speak up.
Don't get me wrong with all of the above. I would like to see the local retailer flourish in all sectors. In point of fact, we have made it abundantly clear from our first issue forward that the true success of the MYO/RYO industry will be measured by the number of local tobacco retailers who do prosper, because with local success comes enhanced visibility, especially in an industry that is all but shut out of traditional advertising methods. We look to a day when there once again is a good tobacconist in even the smallest of towns and many chains of professionally run shops like the Tinderboxes of old (to name one of many) are found in every mall in the US. We are completely behind the local shop, most profusely the ones that carry a reasonable variety of well cared for supplies. I simply am stating that in order to once again entertain the robust presence of old, these shops owe their customers better service, more knowledgeable staff, and better selection as well as a commitment to proactive and ever current research for new products. For instance, why do package cigarettes sell so well? A very large part of the reason is that they are available nearly everywhere you shop. If MYO/RYO supplies were as prevalent, in every general merchandise environment, the market share differential would be strikingly different. The Fact that TOP tobacco and Bugler are the largest selling RYO tobaccos (by a huge degree) has a great deal to do with the fact they are visible almost everywhere cigarettes are, and have been for a very long time. Even a more esoteric (for the US) style halfzware blend like Drum achieved great presence for several decades before its European makers abandoned the US market. Since Republic has now brought it back in the US, I am seeing it more and more in general merchandise stores. I also see Zig-Zag and American Spirit making small but visible inroads in these environments but few others, and as you all must know who read this publication, there are a LOT of others worthy of shelf space.
There are organizations that are coming into existence on behalf of consumers and retailers alike to combat the out of control escalation of unfair taxation on tobacco products. One of the most impressive is project STOP which has been created by NATO (National Association of Tobacco Outlets) www.natocentral.org and is funded by manufacturers and retailers alike on a strictly voluntary basis. NATO has a lobbying wing which already addresses the political issues facing tobacco retailers but we feel this new campaign has a better chance of succeeding and here are the reasons why. First this new campaign is aimed at the consumer not the retailer, in order to make the millions of consumers aware of local, state, and federal legislation so that they can weigh in with their particular representatives. Lobbying on behalf of retailers only, however, has its weaknesses, especially on a national scale. The idea that a grass roots movement, on behalf of tobacco retail outlets exclusively, would actually be effective, may be a bit short sighted. Keep in mind that a majority of the population of this country continues to look upon tobacco as a necessary evil at best, and at worst, a product that should require, as part of its labeling, a skull and crossbones and with its user serving jail time. The amount of negative and often distorted information about tobacco and health is a formidable obstacle to overcome.
Consequently, the general population has little sympathy for the plight of the tobacco retailer and certainly motivating a broad enough base of voters is very difficult. Project STOP however involves getting retail CUSTOMERS to supply personal contact info so that when new legislation is proposed, they can be contacted by NATO and thus have a proactive chance to deal with their own political representatives. It's a good plan as far as it goes but it may fall short on depth unless NATO can convince ALL tobacco sources to participate. It is no secret that most cigarette smokers buy their products at general merchandise stores, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations and the like. Only a relatively small portion actually go to tobacco only shops for these items. If NATO can indeed entice Safeway, Costco, 7-Eleven and the like to participate with these signs and the have them encourage customers to fill out the little information cards that come with each display, this program could have huge and far reaching effects on the way people ultimately cast their votes in all levels of the political process.
There are others who are battling the regulatory whimsy of our elected officials and their appointees. In some ways, these organizations are at odds with one another and at odds even with their own credos of fairness and freedom from regulation. While they want taxes on tobacco curtailed (rightfully so), even they, at the same time, want more regulations protecting the retailer from what they view as unfair competition from Internet based enterprises. So while some are appealing to tobacco retailers to group together and form grass roots movements to lobby against obstructionist and obscene revenue collecting and regulatory practices, they at times lose sight of the fact that all regulation hurts somebody. And more importantly, Internet tobacco sales regulation is often tied to or used as an excuse for the regulation of all Internet commerce.
We completely support the efforts and vision of NATO with its STOP program and applaud them for both the creativity and organization required to make it work. But we do warn against it applying the potential muscle it may accrue to interfere with Internet commerce (including tobacco) that could reach far beyond tobacco sales itself. The bottom line is, until the fallacies and weaknesses of the statistical analysis regarding tobacco and health are exposed in conjunction with the public airing of the unethically huge amounts of money going to attorneys and the many so called health conscious groups, many of which are simply fronts for large cash acquisition, any "grass roots" movement is not likely to gain enough serious and useful momentum from mass public support. It takes a lot of heat to change one's loyalty to a candidate or party. Hell, it takes a lot of "therms" to get folks to simply write a letter.
Again, a large majority of Americans could care less about tobacco retailers, as they have been indoctrinated to believe that these businesses supply a product that is harmful. So before any political ground can be gained on behalf of retailers in general, whether it concerns all Internet trade or tobacco itself, two things have to happen. First, retailers have to become product knowledgeable participants in the tobacco business and simultaneously become knowledgeable members of their community with clear and compelling information about not only the options available to smokers as to usage, dosage, and selection, but gain a position of respectability that will allow a more open and scientifically sound dialogue on the ACTUAL ramifications of particular forms of tobacco usage. Clearly, unless the PR battle regarding tobacco is successful, little support for the business side is going to be forthcoming from the majority of citizens necessary to actually affect things at the ballot box. Sure, there are other industries who are under similar attack by greedy lawyers and a wide range of governmental bodies looking for new revenue sources (fast food, SUV's etc). And let's not forget that there is still a substantial number of people who are anti-tax advocates regardless what or who is the targeted "victim" of the tax. In fact, most Americans are suspicious, to say the least, of any tax legislation, and ANYTIME a proposed tax is left to a vote, it is almost always defeated. Tax and regulation have become nasty words to most Americans and a clear opportunity certainly now exists to coalesce all of the various elements of revenue dissatisfaction into one Hell of a powerful political force. Secondly, within its membership, this force MUST be concerned with the big picture which involves more than simply tobacco. If it does not, our fear is that it will lack enough support to accomplish little more than past efforts have. The free use of the Internet is integral to not only tobacco, but to free commerce in general and, most importantly, to ultimately seasoning the public awareness to the fact that regulators often have vested ulterior motives that have little to do with the public good and much more to do with personal power and profit.
There are, as mentioned above, many potential allies for the tobacco industry as long as these kinds of movements are careful not to alienate as many as they attract. Fast food, SUV's, Alcohol, and nearly every other market segment you can think of is vulnerable to SOMEONE who doesn't like them or sees a real fast cash opportunity to exploit their real or imagined negatives. Retailers simply must offer more choices to compete with the Internet, not push for its regulation. Most American do take pride in their buying habits and will shop locally if diversity of product exists. Not everyone is driven by bargain mentality and the fact is that with shipping costs, often online sales are hardly a better bargain. But nothing is more compelling to a buyer than a diversity of CHOICE! I have a rather rude habit of asking people what they pay for things be it a nice head of lettuce or a box of candy. Too often their response is that they don't remember. I remain unconvinced that Americans are preoccupied with price unless bargains are thrown in their face through mass marketed advertising.
We will explore these and other issues regarding the jeopardy the Internet finds itself in within future issues of this magazine. It is a subject that is not going to go away or be resolved soon, but we do think it important that folks realize, once again, that regulation of any kind hurts somebody (some no doubt deserve it as referenced at the beginning of this article re: SPAM). This harm must be carefully balanced for the good of the many with the all important definitive that accurate data is essential for making these kinds of regulatory decisions. Whether one talks tobacco or retailers losing revenue, always be aware that those who make the rules on our behalf are most often more concerned about the money than the altruism.
While we prepare our next foray into this fascinating subject, we want to leave you with a list of links below that more or less track much of the official attempts to interfere with Internet commerce. They are in no particular order of importance or timeline, so it is strongly suggested that you be aware of the dates that head each page you will visit. We think this is a pretty representative group of gripes, groans, and legislative adventures from both sides of the issue and recommend you began to formulate for yourself how you would respond to the arguments posed and, further, what you can do to intercede where you feel appropriate. There are 50 million smokers in the US. There are 200+ million Internet users in the US. With a good portion of either motivated towards individual freedom of choice, a whole lot of changes in the way our lives are regulated are possible. A short piece was sent to us by one of our readers concerning some of the new regulations coming out of Congress and the White House regarding the Patriot Act and the Intelligence Authorization Act. We thought you might find it both amusing and alarming. It was written by George Paine and blends well with a quote we have used on several occasions in this magazine from Ben Franklin. "Those that would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty not Safety" Here is the piece by George Paine.
Once again, we also urge you to read the Stephen Baxter novel "Evoluiton" at left above. It provides an amazing and entertaining insight into the fragility of civilization, the inevitability of change, and the dangers of narrow, self interest-only thinking. One note here: As with all of the links in this publication, usually when you follow them, a new window will open which you need only close to return here - your place of origin.
We realize this is a fair amount to read, but trust me when I say that this is less than 5% of the articles that we found on the issue. And even more can be found on any of the major news websites by simply typing in "Internet Taxes." Always select "search CNN.com or whatever organization you are at" rather than the whole web, but as an additional resource, Alta Vista is probably the most up to date resource on any issue. The other search engines have become basically pay per views for the top listed results and take quite a while to acknowledge new web sites. Have fun with the adventure and let us know YOUR perspective as to what you read on the above linked pages. We love hearing from you. The amount of e-mail we currently receive makes it difficult to always respond immediately but you usually will hear back from us within a few days at most. Enjoy - Doug
Our greatest hope at this magazine is that we will stimulate our readers, and those they come in contact with, to begin a journey that involves increased self reliance and control over every aspect of their personal lives. If you don't like taxes or the legislation your representatives are supporting, find new candidates and vote for them. If you work for someone else, start your own business on the side. Stay flexible. Eat healthy, exercise regularly, practice moderation and by all means have FUN. Exorcise the bitterness life sometimes injects and replace it with a sense of adventure. Look up once in a while and remember the dreams we had of the stars when we were kids. Begin to think of the larger universe where opportunities unimagined lie. The only limit to the achievements possible for each and every one of us are the ones that we place on ourselves or allow other to place on us. With these principles in mind let us once again state the purposes that guide the production of this publication.
Most of the information in this magazine is directed solely at those people of legal age who already smoke, those who are trying to reduce their tobacco intake, those wishing to spend less money on tobacco, and who are interested in creating their own cigarettes using high quality tobacco products of their choosing - in general, those who wish to have, in our opinion, a far more satisfying, and economical smoking experience when compared with smoking pre-manufactured cigarettes. We, in no way, wish to encourage people to smoke. Further, we subscribe to a more sane, more logical approach for those that chose to smoke, that involves common sense as to quantity, coupled with a strong commitment to manage the habit until it becomes an occasional, freely chosen, diversion, that can be fully enjoyed without obsession, and hopefully, with minimal health risks. No sensible person should assume that the intake of smoke or other pollutants of any kind can be advantageous to your physical health, and we feel that any tobacco use implies demonstrable statistical risk. We submit that, if you do not smoke, it would seem illogical to start. However, we are likewise extremely interested in future determinations as to the degree of risk based on dosage and smoking material and encourage much more research to be undertaken, using sound, scientific methods that can be looked at as universally credible.
It is our position that because of the sheer enormity of money that is involved in the tobacco debate, and the fact that such vast amounts of resource can breed fraud and corruption, as evidenced by the large number of claims of violations attributed to the cigarette industry, as well as counter-claims of fraudulent research methods by those on the other side of the issue, much more needs to be done to quantify the specific elements of tobacco smoke as well as specific elements of other sources of smoke and pollution in our environment that can lead to health problems. We therefore stress as a logical and necessary step forward, in order to ameliorate the controversy and lessen the divisive nature of the subject, that any and all tax revenues that are collected on tobacco, as well as all punitive damages collected on behalf of US citizens by all local, state, and federal litigations against tobacco, other than those funds already allocated that are needed to satisfy current regulation and enforcement, be applied to five (5) areas of investigation and compensation exclusively. These areas are:
The above needs more in the way of specifics, especially concerning the definition of "scientifically qualified panels" as well as specific methods of oversight and redress of these panels by the public. The Master Settlement Agreement (which you should read sometime) already addresses the cigarette companies' faults and responsibilities of issues 4 & 5 above. However, unlike President Bush's Homeland Security Bill that grew from 40 pages as it left his desk to over 400 pages by the time it left the House of Representatives, there should be no need for over-engineering a simple and logical plan that addresses the stated interests of the medical community and the individual rights of the people to know. The details of taxation, punitive damages, and research are beyond the understanding of very few.
The emerging Make You Own philosophy, (which is basically to regain control of our ability to chose and be proactive in our views) especially as it extends well beyond the scope of tobacco, is potentially a very powerful political force that, with enough visibility, could foreseeably change the way our government looks at the control of its population and better define the risks governments take in supporting tax-driven, social engineering schemes. We at RYO Magazine are dedicated to the prospect of accurate and fair information regardless of subject, as well as the uncompromising appreciation of quality above profit. Profit will come from quality and have more lasting benefits as well. We also believe that given complete and honest data, humans are more than capable of making wise decisions. With the recent increases in taxation on packaged cigarettes in so many states, even greater interest is being directed at this magazine and the industry as a whole - this is increasing daily. We feel an obligation to play it straight with our readers, who come from every point of view imaginable, from every continent on the planet, as they are our most valuable resource.
Once again we remind you of Peter's book. The MYO world, is relatively young compared with RYO and manufactured brand cigarettes as well. In fact, most products that are exclusive to MYO like tubes and injectors (even that word scares folks though stuffer is even worse), sound more like industrial equipment labels than consumer oriented products. Of course, tobacco is not produced with just injectors in mind so the great old names associated with fine tobacco like Stokkebye, with Bali, McClintock, etc., had no reason to change their branding schemes for their inclusion in this burgeoning industry. Now ten years ago I had never even heard the name Peter Stokkebye. In fact, it took a couple of years after that before I could properly pronounce it. However from the moment I saw it on a can of tobacco, I somehow 'knew" it must be classy. The name looks good and when you correctly pronounce it, it sounds good (stoke-a-bee). It was years later when I finally met the man himself and of course, after that, I knew that my initial impression of elegance and quality was well placed. Peter has been an icon in the pipe tobacco industry for a very long time and enjoyed the same reputation in the rolling industry but to a much more secular crowd. This book (at left), a grand biography actually, you will find fascinating if you love good tobacco as I do, and are curious as to its production and roots, not to mention if your are interested in sharing the adventures that this fascinating human being enjoyed on the road to becoming a true tobacco icon. We recommend it highly as we feel it important to understanding the amount of care and hard work involved in creating incredible tobacco blends as well as the decades of experience necessary to even begin to understand producing tobacco as an art form.
As MYO becomes more well known, some will say it is just another way to encourage people to smoke. While patently untrue for now, the industry must be wise enough to never take that path regardless of the possible financial rewards. Smoking is self-indulgent, private behavior and, if conducted responsibly, in moderation, and away from those who want no part of it, it MAY one day prove to be less of a health risk. We can only go by what we hear from our readers, personal acquaintances and our own personal observations. That is, that package cigarette smokers who convert to the MYO methodology tend to smoke less, appreciate the flavor of tobacco more, and eventually gain control to the point that tobacco is a freely chosen, occasional treat and often they eventually smoke so little that their one or two cigarettes a week are quite possibly of little consequence to their overall health. Certainly less so than poor diet and lack of exercise. Providing that kind of alternative to the lifestyle of millions who may be damaging their health smoking pack after pack of manufactured cigarettes daily, we feel can only be viewed as an improvement. Smoking tobacco or breathing in any kind of smoke or other particulate matter must certainly pose some health risk. Our aim is to find the truth as to dosage and degree of risk. However, since we are convinced that the MYO method has improved the lives of many smokers already, attracting more current smokers to an environment where quitting is far easier and moderation is a fact, seems a worthy enterprise.
Have some fun today and appreciate the good times. Until next time - Doug
Check out the links below and keep abreast of what is happening in the tobacco wars. These areas directly effect you and your right to smoke as well as other endangered freedoms more and more every day. Keep in mind though, that our position remains that non-smokers should not be exposed to other's smoke. We feel that businesses that want a smoking environment should have that choice and be able to discriminate against potential employees and customers who do not smoke. The reverse is in wide practice already - the ed
Also, most of the news services (CNN, Fox, ABC, MSNBC, etc.), have extensive archives of smoking related articles both pro and con. They are great resources for both sides of the issue. Their websites are easily found in search engines or by URL (i.e. cnn.com).
Without a doubt, even though we are being redundant, we strongly suggest you read what should be the handbook for the smoker's rights enthusiast, Don Oakley's "Slow Burn" - an incredibly well researched, powerful history of the facts and fallacies (mostly) of the anti-smoking movement from its organized inception in the early 60's to present - is available at Amazon.com (click the book graphic at right to purchase it immediately online from Amazon.com (highly recommended). This book is filled with detailed accounts of the step-by-step conspiracy that has created the anti-tobacco environment we all suffer today as well as many portents of the dangers of attorney driven campaigns to change the ways our basic rights are defined. It's all about money and it will make you angry . . . AND. . . you will be amazed at how much wool has been pulled over the eyes of the American sheep population and the enormous cost of the sheering.
|EDITOR'S NOTE: These reviews are solely for the convenience of people of legal age who already smoke, are trying to cut down on smoking, wish to spend less money on their smoking, want to roll their own cigarettes from high quality tobacco, and, in general, wish to have a far more satisfying, and economical smoking experience when compared with smoking pre-manufactured cigarettes. We, in no way, encourage people to smoke. Further, we subscribe to a sane, more logical approach to smoking that involves common sense as to quantity coupled with a strong desire to manage the habit until it becomes an occasional, freely chosen, diversion, that can be fully enjoyed with minimal health risks. Finally, we strongly encourage those who do smoke to take it outdoors, or to appropriate environments where tobacco can be enjoyed away from those who do not smoke, most especially children. We do not sell tobacco or related products from this site; We distribute information about our perceptions of the quality of what is available and where it can be obtained. If you are under 18, it is illegal to buy tobacco and you should immediately exit this site. If you do not smoke, it would seem illogical to start.|
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