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Rolling papers are small sheets, rolls, or leaves of paper which are sold for rolling one's own cigarettes either by hand or with a rolling machine. When rolling a cigarette, one fills the rolling paper with tobacco, cannabis or other herbs.



Rolling papers are most commonly made with wood pulp, hemp, flax, or rice as a base material. Some companies may use esparto, which might lead to a slightly higher carcinogen level when burned.[1] 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, rice-based rolling papers are also often used to make spliffs or used by connoisseurs for cigarettes of the highest quality. 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[2]. Newer rolling papers are available in various flavors. This is said to enhance the smoking experience.

Rolling papers have experienced a resurgence of popularity because it has become increasingly less expensive to roll cigarettes than to purchase a machine-made one in many countries including the USA [3][4][5][6]. Tax policy is the key reason for the cost differential. In addition, people who roll their own cigarettes can customize the cigarette to any shape, size, and form they choose. Rolling papers are sold in lengths of 70mm - 110mm and a range of widths.

Most manufacturers who sell in the USA use the designations 1 (Single wide), 1¼ (1.25) size, 1½ (1.5) 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.; and, 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). 1 1/4 is also known as "Spanish Size" or "French" in parts of the world.

While a 1 1/4 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 1 1/4 is designed to roll a cigarette that contains about 25% more tobacco then a single wide paper. Similarly a 1 1/2 size paper is designed to roll a cigarette that contains about 50% more than a single wide paper. A 1 1/4 size paper is larger than a 1 (single wide) paper and naturally a 1 1/2 size paper is larger than a 1 1/4 size paper, and a double wide is larger than a 1 1/2 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. [7], TTB stats

In 2000, a Canadian government survey estimated that 9% of Canada's 6 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.[8]. A more recent 2009 study has shown that approximately 925,000 Canadians roll their own cigarettes ref

According to The Publican, "Low price RYO has seen an astonishing rise of 175 per cent in [2007] as cigarette smokers look for cheaper alternatives and to control the size of their smoke" [9]. 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. [10]

In Thailand, roll-your-own smokers have long exceeded those for manufactured brands[11]. 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. [12]

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. [13].


The Spanish manufacturer of Bambu and Smoking was accused of using illegal carcinogenic materials, namely esparto, in their cigarette papers to cut costs but was never convicted [14]. [15]

Fire-resistant applications

Fire-resistant cigarettes, which reduce the risk of fire from unattended cigarettes, are made with special paper that includes "speed-bumps"[16] If a cigarette made with this type of paper is left unattended, the thicker paper in the speed bump will help the cigarette self-extinguish.

Other uses

Rolling paper can be used for more than just rolling cigarettes:

  • After soaking in potassium nitrate, rolling paper can be fitted to a base bullet to make a combustible paper cartridge. [17]
  • Cigarette papers are often used while playing the electric guitar to carry out notes and make a unique sound.
  • As an inexpensive bandage to stop bleeding. [18]
  • Players of wind instruments, particularly flutes, use rolling paper as a blotter to remove moisture that accumulates in keypads or joints.[19] Some clarinet players use a folded piece of rolling paper over their two front bottom teeth to protect the bottom lip from being cut, due to the pressure from the weight of the clarinet on the lip.[20]
  • In computer-aided manufacture for setting the right level for drills. The paper is placed on the object to be machined and the drill is lowered until it catches the paper. Because the paper is so thin, this is the easiest way to get an exact start point for the drill.
  • By DJs to tighten a loose centre hole of a record. The paper is placed over the spindle and the record pushed down on top. This prevents the needle skipping from lateral movement due to a large centre hole.
  • They can also be used as an instrument by themselves; by folding it and using it as a flute, just as one can with grass-straws, thin candy wrappers or other thin plastic, and similar.
  • A number of photographers use them as disposable lens cleaners. Though some are reticent to do so, due to the possibility of scratching the coating of the lenses. However, this can occur using other materials as well. The effects of using cigarette paper to clean photographic lenses are not noticeable in the form of decreased image quality, unless used extremely often over a long period of time.

Noted brands

  • Abadie - French brand in a pink pack (France 1840)
  • Bambu rolling papers - Brand of rolling papers made in Argentina & Spain. (Spain 1922, moved to Argentina 1990.)
  • Bugler - Popular in US prison system and among low end rollers.
  • JOB (France) 1834. First rolling paper in booklet form. Famous for iconic art nouveau advertising posters
  • Juicy Jay's - Flavored paper brand, notably featured as part of the plot line in Grandma's Boy movie
  • OCB - French brand in a white pack (France 1918)
  • RAW - Unbleached vegan rolling papers, notable for their brown see-through properties (Spain 2005)
  • Rizla - (France): 18th century origins. Now 75% of the UK rolling paper market.
  • Pay-Pay - Oldest brand of rolling papers in the world (From 1703 Spain)
  • Smoking - (Spain) - popular in parts of Europe and the Middle East.
  • Zig-Zag - (France) First interleaved brand (hence the name). Gold medal at 1900 Universal Exposition in Paris.
  • Tally-Ho - (Australia): Known for its patriotism, despite being made in Belgium.

See also


  1. ^ Valenzuela de Quinta, Enrique (2003-12-11). "Circular No 114/03". Asociación de Mutatas de Accidentes de Trabaho. Retrieved 2008-09-08.  
  2. ^ Nick Jones, "Skinning Up" in "Spliffs: A Celebration of Cannabis Culture", Collins & Brown, 2003: pp. 94-133.
  3. ^ WHO TV - Des Moines: Cigarette Tax Increase Hits Two Month Anniversary
  4. ^ Dateline: Nato Expo: Where There's Fire, There's Smoke(less) | Marketing & Advertising > Marketing Techniques from
  5. ^ Ref3
  6. ^ Roll-Your-Owns Cut Taxes - New York Times
  7. ^ Iver Peterson, "Roll-your-owns cuts taxes", New York Times, October 14, 2002.
  8. ^ Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey (CTUMS) 2000 Online fact sheet
  9. ^ The Publican - Home - Tobacco sales drop in Scotland
  10. ^ BBC, "Smoker poll reveals roll-ups myth", May 30, 2006 Online copy
  11. ^ "Cigarette Consumption", Thailand Health Promotion Institute PDF document
  12. ^ Ministry of Health, "Seeing through the Smoke: Tobacco Monitoring in New Zealand", Public Health Intelligence: Occasional Bulletin (26), 2005 PDF document
  13. ^ Tom Loftus, "Tax Hike Targets Cigarette Papers", Courier Journal, April 17, 2006 Online document
  14. ^ (Spanish) "El fabricante de 'Smoking' niega que su papel de fumar lleve productos cancerígenos". 20 minutos. 2006-07-19. Retrieved 2007-06-16.  
  15. ^ Mark Emery, "Major Rolling Paper Company convicted of adding carcinogens to their papers", Cannabis Culture, August 2007 Online document
  16. ^ Coalition for Fire Safe Cigarettes - What is a fire-safe cigarette?
  17. ^ Johnny Bates and Mike Cumpston, "Percussion Pistols and Revolvers: History, Performance and Practical Use", iUniverse, 2005: Pg.75.
  18. ^ Anthony Cavender, "Folk Medicine in Southern Appalachia", University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill: 2003, pg. 98.
  19. ^ Meghan Daum, "Music is my Bag", Harper's Magazine, March 2000.
  20. ^ "Health Problems of Musicians", Arizona Health Sciences Library Online Document

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