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, cloves, damiana 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. 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. Newer rolling papers are available in various flavors. This is said to enhance the smoking experience.
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.
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 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. 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.
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.
The FDA has recently stated that each and every brand (including private labels) of cigarette rolling papers sold in the USA must immediately submit their ingredients and seek agency approval or withdraw from the marketplace by March, 2011 if they have not been sold in the USA before February 15, 2007.