As tobacco taxes soar, more and more people are turning to RYO (roll-your-own) cigarettes. It's a good way to avoid paying over-inflated amounts for cigarettes, although even rolling tobacco is taxed more heavily than it used to be. Rolling papers have been around for a long time -- as early as the 16th century -- and through the centuries have been subject to various innovations.
Introduction of the Flavored Rolling Paper
The first flavored rolling papers were introduced in 1906 by the RizLa+ company, the second-oldest rolling paper company ever formed. Their original flavors were menthol and strawberry. At the time the papers were a bit of a novelty, and to some extent they still are. From the original flavors of menthol and strawberry, the flavor selection has come to include nearly everything imaginable — from fruit flavors like banana and green apple, to liquor flavors like rum and tequila, to other food food flavors such as peaches-and-cream, chocolate chip cookie dough, and even bacon
The appeal of flavored rolling papers is debatable. On the one hand, many purists maintain that flavored rolling papers get in the way of enjoying the taste of the tobacco or other other herb that is being smoked; some brands of flavored rolling papers burn less evenly, or catch less easily; some users of the papers find that whatever compound is used to produce the flavor also produces irritation of the throat. In general, the flavor of the rolling paper has little effect on the tobacco itself, though it can be tasted on the lips. On the other hand, some people feel that the flavor has a mellowing effect on what is being smoked.
The FDA Cracks Down on Flavored Rolling Papers
Flavored rolling papers have recently been the subject of some controversy. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law a bill that gave the FDA the ability to regulate tobacco products. Three months later, the FDA successfully introduced a ban on many flavored tobacco-related products, including clove cigarettes, cigarettes with fruit or candy flavoring, and flavored rolling papers. The argument behind the ban was that flavored tobacco products, including flavored rolling papers, were an enticement for children to smoke. Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, argued that the ban would help curb smoking among youth. A 2004 study showed that 17-year-old smokers were much more likely to smoke flavored tobacco then were smokers of age 25 or older.
Both in the context of the ban and in other contexts, it is sometimes argued that flavored rolling papers are generally not used for smoking tobacco. This argument is something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand the most likely substance to be smoked with flavored papers is cannabis, the possession of which for other than medical purposes is illegal in the United States, so it could be argued (however speciously) that selling flavored papers constitutes an encouragement to use illegal substances. On the other hand, since flavored papers are usually not used for smoking tobacco, the argument that flavored papers entice youth to smoke tobacco could be said to be equally spurious.