Contrary to what some may believe, there are still roll-your-own filling stations in Las Vegas.
But you have to be a member to use them.
Smokey D’s Tobacco Co. at 9620 Las Vegas Blvd. South is an RYO Filling Station that looks much like the filling station of last year, with one major exception: It’s now a club.
To use the cigarette rolling machines there, members have to pay the $20 annual dues. The social club is operated separately from the store that acts as its headquarters.
At the store, customers can buy loose tobacco and paper tubes. At the club, members can make a carton of cigarettes with their supplies in about 10 minutes with the machines.
At $22 each, RYO cartons are cheaper than big-name cartons that can run upward of $50.
A year ago, the roll-your-own filling stations were almost wiped out with the stroke of a pen.
An amendment in the federal transportation bill signed in July 2012 by President Barack Obama put operators of roll-your-own cigarette machines in Las Vegas and nationwide out of business.
Under the new law, the definition of a cigarette manufacturer was changed to include thousands of roll-your-own operations nationwide, which resulted in regulatory costs of up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“It really hurt us. We almost went out of business,” said Smokey D’s owner Diann Dunham.
All Smokey D’s RYO machines were shut down, and sales were limited to other smoking products, such as water pipes and novelty gifts.
In October 2012, Dunham started her smoking club.
Other outlets in Las Vegas also are operating under the revised model, although the owners declined to speak for this story.
RYO stations in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and other states also have changed to the club format, which allows operators to exist without paying the cigarette manufacturer fees because they’re operating separately from their retail outfits.
With about 200 members, Dunham said starting the club at Smokey D’s has been beneficial, but she still has lost 40 percent of her RYO product sales.
Since she changed the format, Smokey D’s has been visited by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
“It’s in compliance with the law,” Dunham said.
The law allows the machines for private use, and by paying club dues, members can use Dunham’s machines. She also offers members-only specials and hosts once-a-month drawings to round out the club experience.
Still, the RYO business is struggling.
“A lot of these stores had to close down and never reopened. ... They couldn’t afford to (wait),” Dunham said.
Another twist is the individual cigarette rolling machines that can roll one, two or three smokes at a time. They’re usually used at home.
Mack Patel owns East West Trading Group, a company that sells the personal machines to smoke shops around the United States. He said that in the past year, his sales have been up at least 50 percent.
“They can save lots of money with this, and they just take it home with them,” Patel said.
Contact reporter Laura Carroll at lcarroll@ reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4588. Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.