LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. - As people in Southwest Florida keep tight budgets, smokers are finding ways to keep buying cigarettes, but at half the cost. Last month, "Roll Your Own" in Lehigh Acres opened, and stores just like it are gaining a big following.
Just like it sounds, customers roll their own cigarettes with the help of a machine and because they're essentially the "manufacturers," they save big money.
The recession wasn't enough to make these smokers snuff their cigarettes. "I was just kind of in shock about the price because a carton of cigarettes is $50 easy," first-time customer Tracy Barroso said.
Rather than buying pre-manufactured cigarettes, people like Barroso are heading to local cigarette rolling stores, like "Roll Your Own." A carton there costs $24.99, compared to the regular price of $50.
"Oh I like it," Barroso said. "It saves me $25 bucks. Ten minutes worth of work and I'm done."
It doesn't take long for it to go from tobacco to cigarettes. First, you fill a pitcher with the type of tobacco you want. Then, you go to a filling station and load the filters and tubes, dump the tobacco, and in a few minutes, you have finished cigarettes.
"The community loves it," Co-owner David Casman said. "They think it's a good concept, it saves them a lot of money, and every day it get busier."
Casman said they get around 50 customers a day, and that number is growing. "They're manufacturing in here and there's no shipping of the cigarettes, taxes are less because the people are making their own cigarettes," Casman said.
Every station does display a Surgeon General's warning on the dangers of smoking, and only those 18 and older are allowed inside.
"I think it's great, you get the help the community, you get to help people in the local area and it doesn't have any chemicals. even though you smoke, it's better for you," first-time customer Jordan Eagle said.
Each of those high-speed air compression machines cost about $30,000. It takes them less than 10 minutes to roll 200 cigarettes.