The History of Rolling Papers

The earliest company producing rolling papers was Pay-Pay, formed in Spain in 1703. The known history of cigarette rolling papers can be said to begin with Alexandro Rizlette de Cramptone Lacroix, progenitor of the Lacroix family which was eventually to create and, for centuries, control the RizLa+ rolling papers company. The story goes that the Frenchman Lacroix, in the year 1532, traded a bottle of Champagne for rolling papers that French soldiers were carrying back with them from Spain. He then copied that paper (just like the French do to this very day). Rolling Papers were invented in Spain, not France. The French didn’t trade tobacco with the new world until a lifetime after the Spanish already were.

In 1660, the Lacroix family began producing the papers; in 1736 they obtained a mill and founded the Lacroix Rolling Paper company. Their first big contract was with none other than Napoleon, who granted them a license to produce the papers—his soldiers had been using pages from books to roll their cigarettes. In 1865, the company changed the formula for the papers to include rice paper, and the name became "RizLa+" — riz is the French word for rice (the main component of the papers), and La+ can be expanded to mean "Lacroix," since croix is French for "cross."

Early Style RizLa+ Rolling Papers

The Lacroix family continued to make substantial profits from their venture through the centuries, amassing enough fortune by 1891 to build an impressive family mansion. Their product was circulted throughout Europe and the US by the year 1900, and in 1942 they successfully patented their method of applying gum to the edge of the papers, which made them the clear leaders of the market.

The Lacroix family owned the company until 1978, when they sold it to Fernand Painblanc.

In general, the composition of rolling papers has remained much the same throughout the centuries. Various companies use different combinations of pulp, hemp, rice, and flax. Rice's use in rolling papers goes back at least to 1865. Some companies may use esparto, or "needle grass," which grows in northwest African and southern Spain — but the material is not popular, as it may be more carcinogenic than its counterparts.

The JOB brand of papers possess some claim to prominence. In 1838, the company commissioned Paul Harvey to paint pictures featuring the brand, in a manner reminiscent of the popular art nouveau style of Alphonse Mucha. Popularity of the rolling papers in general saw an increase around the year 1883, when cigarette rolling machines were invented — another innovation from the Lacroix family. Their basic design is still in use in rolling machines today. Shortly thereafter, the Zig-Zag brand of rolling papers introduced what is now a very popular method of packaging rolling papers — the "interleaving" method, by which each paper in a packet is folded so as to link it to the next paper.

In 1906, RizLa+ introduced the first flavored papers (menthol and strawberry). Innovation in rolling papers is still going on, and in a way it can be said to be a microcosm of popular culture. Elements papers tout their magnetically-closing tobacco pouches; Bugler papers were widely smoked in jails for quite some time, and RAW papers reflect a general preference for organic materials: their papers are marketed as being vegan and additive-free.


All Rolling Papers are not Created Equal

Nowadays rolling papers are available in a wide array of materials, weights, and sizes to suit an individual's smoking preferences. Some prefer the taste of rice papers, while others prefer wood or flax. Some prefer a thicker, stiffer paper while others would rather have an ultra-thin, transparent burn. Some like a thick gum strip, and some papers have no adhesive strip whatsoever. It all comes down to personal taste. Below is some information about the sizes and styles of various rolling paper brands.

Brand Origin Fiber Size (mm) Weight Burn
Abadie France Rice 70x38 Medium Normal
American Spirit Belgium Flax 77x44 Med-Fine Normal
Athey (Tube) Philippines - 76x28 Standard Free
Bambu Spain Rice 78x45 Fine Normal
Black Death EU Rice 68x37 Med-Fine Normal
Club Carre (Modiano) Italy Rice 70x44 Very Fine Normal
DLX Spain Rice/Hemp/Flax 84x45 Ultra-Fine Med-Slow
Gizeh Green Austria Rice/Wood 68x35 Medium Normal
Gizeh Green Extra Slim Austria Wood 70x28 Medium Normal
Gizeh Hanf Austria Hemp 68x35 Standard Normal
Gizeh Silver Tip Austria Rice 68x35 Ultra-Fine Med-Slow
Gizeh Silver Extra Slim Austria Rice 70x28 Ultra-Fine Normal
Gizeh Sphinx Austria Rice/Hemp 68x35 Fine Med-Slow
JOB France Rice/Wood 68x36 Med-Standard Normal
Joker 1¼ Belgium Wood 78x45 Fine Med-Slow
Laramie Blue EU Rice/Wood 69x37 Medium Free
OCB France Flax 68x35 Medium Med-Slow
Peter Stokkebye EU Rice/Wood 70x36 Med-Standard Normal
RAW Natural Spain Rice 70x37 Ultra-Fine Normal
RIZLA+ Blue France Rice 70x36 Fine Slow
RIZLA+ LLF USA Rice 72x40 Fine Normal
Samson EU - 68x35 Medium Normal
Smoking Corn Spain Corn 78x45 Med-Fine Normal
Smoking Green Spain Hemp 78x45 Med-Fine Normal
Smoking Orange Spain Rice/Wood 70x37 Med-Fine Free
Swan 1¼ South China Flax 79x43 Fine Normal
Top France Flax 70x40 Standard Normal
Twister Austria Rice/Wood 68x35 Standard Normal
Urban Wraps Spain Hemp 79x45 Ultra Fine Slow
Wheat Straw LA+ USA Wheat 72x39 Fine Free
Zig-Zag Kutkorners France Wood/Flax 68x37 Fine Normal
Zig-Zag Orange France Wood/Flax 78x45 Med-Fine Normal
Zig-Zag Unfolded France Wood/Flax 68x36 Medium Normal

For more information on the history of sizes of rolling papers, refer to this video produced and published by our friends over at HBI: