Regulation of Other Tobacco Products

A number of tobacco-based products sold and consumed around the world including roll-your-own and make-your-own cigarettes are used as substitutes for machine-made cigarettes. While some consumers may choose these products because of different customs and traditions, the decision is most often based on price.

The following are examples of other types of tobacco products which are currently sold worldwide:

  • Roll-your-own (RYO) cigarettes are cigarettes made by hand from loose or fine-cut tobacco and rolling paper. The consumer puts the tobacco onto a cigarette paper and rolls a cigarette by hand or using a rolling device. Filter plugs may be used, but the cigarette is generally smoked without a filter. The size, shape, and taste vary widely depending on the tobacco used and the way an individual rolls a cigarette.
  • Make-your-own (MYO) cigarettes, like RYO, are made from loose tobacco, but come with pre-made filter tubes and a device that allows the consumer to make a cigarette by pressing tobacco into the tubes. The finished product is very similar to a machine-made cigarette.
  • Cigarillos are made entirely of tobacco or with an outer wrapper of tobacco leaf. A cigarillo is a short, narrow cigar. Like cigarettes, cigarillos are often machine-made and bought in packs.   

Tax policies intended to reduce consumption of cigarettes have led to increasingly wide price gaps between manufactured cigarettes and other tobacco products. These gaps have undermined the public health objectives of governments, by driving consumers to cheaper alternatives to manufactured cigarettes. This has been most evident in the E.U., where many countries tax roll-your-own and make-your-own cigarettes at significantly lower rates than manufactured cigarettes. 

In 2007, the European Commission recognized the problem, stating that several E.U. countries had “underlined that the sales, and accordingly the consumption, of roll-your-own cigarettes are dramatically increasing, especially among young people.” The Commission found that the “main reason for this development is seen in the lower taxes on RYOs than on cigarettes, which results in lower retail prices.” [1]    

Aside from different taxation, these products are often not subject to product regulations that apply to manufactured cigarettes—even though they present the same health risks to consumers. In many countries, roll-your-own products do not even have health warnings, and in most countries they do not have to comply with regulations on smoke constituents and ingredients. The disparate treatment of the product categories leads to some glaring anomalies. For example, in Belgium, where roll-your-own tobacco accounts for over half of the tobacco market, only manufactured cigarettes are required to have graphic health warnings.

Like many public health authorities, we believe that smoked tobacco products, including RYO, MYO, and cigarillos, should be taxed and regulated in substantially the same way as manufactured cigarettes. Treating these products differently is flawed policy, both for public health and government revenue objectives.


[1]  European Commision, Second Report on the Application of the Tobacco Products Directive (November 2007).

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