Rolling papers are small sheets, rolls, or leaves of paper which are sold for rolling cigarettes either by hand or with a rolling machine. When rolling a cigarette, one fills the rolling paper with tobacco, cannabis, cloves, damiana, hash or other herbs.
In Europe and North America, where taxation of machine-made cigarettes has caused economic disincentive for some smokers, rolling papers have become an increasingly popular method of tobacco consumption. In addition, people who roll their own cigarettes can customize the cigarette for any blend, and to any shape, size, and form they choose. Rolling papers are sold in lengths of 70mm - 110mm and a range of widths. Rolling paper is also used by sport shooters to make paper cartridges for use in cap-and-ball revolvers.
Rolling papers are most commonly made with wood pulp, hemp, flax, or rice straw as a base material. Some companies may use esparto, which might lead to a slightly higher carcinogen level when burned. The basic design of a single paper is a long rectangle with a narrow strip of glue or gum all along one of the long edges. Longer rolling papers are also often used to make spliffs or used for rolling longer cigarettes. Rolling papers are also called skins or rollies (a term which can also mean the hand-rolled cigarettes themselves), but the term skinning up usually only refers to the act of rolling a spliff. Newer rolling papers are available in various flavors.
Most manufacturers who sell in the USA use the designations 1 (Single wide), 1¼ size, 1½ size and "Doublewide" (2 or 2.0) in connection with cigarette rolling papers. However, within the industry, these designations have slightly different meanings, much like the term Corona does not mean a definitive size but moreover a general size. Across the various brands of cigarette papers the actual widths of the papers using these designations vary greatly. For example, the 1¼ designation is used with papers having widths ranging from about 1.7 inches to 2 inches, and the 1½ designation is used with papers having widths ranging from around 2.4 to 3 inches. However the length of these papers is always 78mm (+/- 1mm). 11⁄4 is also known as "Spanish Size" or "French" in parts of the world.
While a 11⁄4 sized paper is not exactly 25% larger than a 1 (single wide) paper, there is meaning to these size names. A better way to describe these accurately is that a 11⁄4 is designed to roll a cigarette that contains about 25% more filler than a single wide paper. Similarly a 11⁄2 size paper is designed to roll a cigarette that contains about 50% more than a single wide paper. A 11⁄4 size paper is larger than a 1 (single wide) paper and naturally a 11⁄2 size paper is larger than a 11⁄4 size paper, and a double wide is larger than a 11⁄2 size paper.
King Size is another multi-meaning term. While a King Size cigarette is typically 84mm long, a King Size rolling paper is either 100mm or 110mm in length.
In the United States, Tobacconist Magazine has called roll-your-own (RYO) the tobacco industry's fastest growing segment. It estimates that 2-4% of US cigarette smokers, or approximately 2.6 million people, make their own cigarettes. Many of these smokers have switched in response to increasingly high taxes on manufactured cigarettes.
In 2000, a Canadian government survey estimated that 9% of Canada's six million cigarette smokers smoked hand-rolled cigarettes "sometimes or most of the time", 7% smoked roll-your-owns "exclusively", and over 90% of rolling papers sold in Canada were for tobacco consumption. A more recent 2009 study has shown that approximately 925,000 Canadians roll their own cigarettes.
According to The Publican, "Low price RYO has seen an astonishing rise of 175 per cent in  as cigarette smokers look for cheaper alternatives and to control the size of their smoke". Britain's National Health Service has reported that roll-your-own use has more than doubled since 1990, from 11% to 24%. Many of these smokers apparently believe that hand rolled cigarettes are healthier than manufactured products, although it is equally possible that the increase is due to the steep rise in prices since the early 1990s to the present day.
In Thailand, roll-your-own smokers have long exceeded those for manufactured brands; the cheaper papers without gum are kept constantly between the fingers during a smoke there. New Zealand reported in 2005 that: The ratio of roll-your-own to manufactured or tailor-made cigarettes consumed by New Zealanders has risen over (at least) the past decade, perhaps reflecting price differences between these products, and currently approaching 50 percent overall.
Consumers' switching to roll-your-own has led to a response among certain tax authorities. In the United States, Indiana and Kentucky tax rolling papers. Kentucky set its tax at $0.25 per pack (for up to 32 leaves, larger packs are taxed at $0.0078 per leaf) in 2006 despite complaints from manufacturers. Louisiana Revised Statute 47:338.261 allows up to $1.25 per pack at retail.
The FDA stated in 2011 that each and every brand (including private labels) of cigarette rolling papers sold in the USA must submit their ingredients and seek agency approval or withdraw from the marketplace by March of that year if they had not been sold in the USA before February 15, 2007.
Fire-resistant cigarettes, which reduce the risk of fire from unattended cigarettes, are made with special paper that includes a plastic compound, ethylene vinyl acetate. If a cigarette made with this type of paper is left unattended, the plastic in the paper will help the cigarette self-extinguish.
- Nick Jones, "Skinning Up" in "Spliffs: A Celebration of Cannabis Culture", Collins & Brown, 2003: pp. 94–133.
- Iver Peterson, "Roll-your-owns cuts taxes", New York Times, October 14, 2002.TTB stats.
- The Publican - Home - Tobacco sales drop in Scotland.
- BBC, "Smoker poll reveals roll-ups myth", May 30, 2006 Online copy.
- "Cigarette Consumption", Thailand Health Promotion Institute PDF document.
- Ministry of Health, "Seeing through the Smoke: Tobacco Monitoring in New Zealand", Public Health Intelligence: Occasional Bulletin (26), 2005 PDF document.
- (Spanish) "El fabricante de 'Smoking' niega que su papel de fumar lleve productos cancerígenos". 20 minutos. 2006-07-19. Retrieved 2007-06-16.
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