By Willis Plummer on November 17th, 2011

Moving to New York from a small town is a shock everything is bigger, the people are meaner, and cigarettes cost upwards of twelve dollars a pack. Coming from a place where five dollar cigarettes seemed expensive, the high prices can be hard to swallow, and many students quit when they get to New York. That’s good and fine until exams roll around and you’ll do anything for the moment of calm relief that nicotine can provide. Inevitably, you get sucked back into smoking regularly, and pretty soon, you’re hemorrhaging money on cigarettes whether you like it or not.

We’ve got good news for you, smokers of NYU the days of deciding between your wallet and your nicotine are over. A tiny shop in Chinatown (on Eldridge between Broome and Grand) called Island Smokes is committed to bringing affordable organic cigarettes to Manhattan smokers. At this hole in the wall, your first pack will only cost you six dollars, and they throw in a convenient tin and a lighter. After that, if you show up with the tin, you can buy a pack for $4.50.

At this point, you’re asking yourself, “how can they possibly afford to sell cigarettes for so little when New York taxes tobacco so heavily?” The answer is that they’ve created a Build A Bear workshop for smokers except instead of stuffing cotton into teddy bears, you’re packing tobacco into cigarette tubes. Apparently, New York City’s cigarette tax focuses on the manufacturing, and because they’re not actually manufacturing any cigarettes, they avoid the enormous fees.

On top of the incredible price, Island Smokes boasts that its cigarettes are 100% organic tobacco on their website, they write “Our smokes are all natural and additive free Unlike manufactured cigarettes which are 30% tobacco, AND 70% CHEMICALS, FILLER AND OTHER HIGHLY DANGEROUS AND ADDICTIVE INGREDIENTS.” The banner in front of their store goes one step further claiming that their product is “a healthier, less expensive alternative to smoking.” Inside, an employee was straight with us “I’m not going to tell you that these are good for you, but it’s nice to know what you’re smoking.”

While reading that you’re expected to operate machinery and build your own cigarettes can be intimidating, the process is actually very simple, and the employees were very helpful. After they showed us how to get the empty tubes onto the machine, it was only a matter of pushing a button, packing the tobacco, and then closing the ends with another machine.

In about five minutes, we had successfully rolled two packs, and we probably could have done it faster had we not been sampling the different blends while we worked. That’s right they let you smoke for free while you complete your order. The cigarettes aren’t bad either the tobacco is comparable to an American Spirit, but they aren’t packed as tight, so they burn faster.

Apparently New York City isn’t happy about this tax loophole, and they’re working to shut Island Smokes down, but the two employees we spoke with were confident that the city can’t do anything. “We’ll be around forever,” one boasted with a thick Staten Island accent.

To all the non smokers out there, we apologize for tempting you with this irresistible deal.

(photographs by Willis Plummer)



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