Upon my first steps into Cheap Tobacco, I was besieged at once by the sound of rolling machines and the atmosphere of cigarette smoke. As I looked around, the customers glanced at me from their conversations placidly, trying to determine if I was old enough to be in the store at all. “You don’t look 18,” one remarked bluntly, though upon reaffirmation of my age the customer went back to smoking her cigarette and chatting animatedly with an employee. The employees all were engaged with the customers, looking quite comfortable in their “that’s how daddy rolls” T-shirts. With the three big rolling machines churning in the background, I met Guy Cesta, the manager of this establishment that sells about 135 cartons of cigarettes a day—2,700 cigarettes.
There are two Cheap Tobacco locations in Bradenton, “That’s How Daddy Rolls” and closer to the New College campus: “Cheap Tobacco Cigarettes for Less.” The tobacco is “cheap” because it is pipe tobacco, and by being RYO, or roll your own, the company avoids taxes that drive up the price of manufactured cigarettes. Their business card boasts 85 tobacco blends, 100% tobacco cigarettes, no additives and no chemicals.
“The process starts with the individual,” Cesta explained. “A person comes in and we ask them what they normally smoke, then we try to match it with the tobacco we have.” To do this the customers are given free cigarettes of various blends to be smoked in the store, until they are satisfied with a blend. Once customers have an established favorite blend and cigarette tube, it is put into the computer to shorten the process the next time they visit.
“The next step is assembly,” Cesta continued. “We teach our customers how to use the filling station and then let them do it themselves, always ready to help if they need it.” The cigarette rolling machines that Cheap Tobacco carry roll 200 cigarettes in eight minutes to produce a carton, which is then sold at $26.90.
A carton of cigarettes equals 20 normal packs, at $26.90 that makes $2.69 the price per average pack, which when compared to the cheapest manufactured cigarettes priced around $4.10, is almost half the price.
“By coming to Cheap Tobacco, all the chemicals that have been put in cigarettes over time are taken out of the equation,” Cesta emphasized. “It’s the way cigarettes used to be before companies started adding all the chemicals. If you’re going to smoke, I mean we all know that smoking isn’t healthy, but if you are going to do it why not do it as healthily as possible? Honestly, even if my cigarettes were as expensive as manufactured cigarettes, I would say about 80% of my customers would still buy them here.”
According to quitsmoking.com, 599 cigarette additives have been approved by the US Department of Health and Human Services and when these additives are burned in the smoking process, they undergo a chemical reaction that can produce 4000 different chemical compounds. Chemical which include: ammonia, acetone, methanol, formaldehyde and metals (76, including arsenic, cadmium and nickel).
Chemicals in cigarettes are used for various reasons, sometimes merely to add flavor, but chemicals like ammonia increase nicotine’s addictive potential. With so many possible chemical compounds in cigarettes one of the primary problems outside of nicotine addiction, is that the effects aren’t known or aren’t public.
“Nicotine isn’t healthy regardless, but at least smokers can smoke without some of the same risk,” he clarified.
Guy Cesta moved to Bradenton after going to school to learn the mixology of tobacco and how to manage the machines, he opened his business with the intention of selling cigarettes cheaply, but also to support safer cigarettes.
Cesta imports tobacco from US farms mostly from Tenessee, the Carolinas and Virginia—preferring “home grown” products instead of tobacco from one of the other approximately 150 countries that export it.
The favorite part of the job to Cesta though is the people. “I am a people’s person,” he said. “I worked in a tree business before and didn’t ever really have to interact with people. Here I am constantly meeting new people. I am a smoker who cares and loves to chat, opening a place like this just made sense.”
The final remark he made in his interview with the Catalyst, was that if any New College students brought in the article and said they were from New College they could get a carton for a $1.50 less. Nevertheless, the Surgeon General’s warning: “Quitting smoking now greatly reduces serious risks to your health.”