The Laredo Cigarette Machine

Laredo cigarette machine

The year was 1970. Cigarette prices had been steadily climbing throughout the 60’s. Why, they had just hit an obscene 40 cents a pack! Something had to be done.

Thus, the Laredo cigarette rolling machine was released. The plastic device would compress tobacco into a tube of cigarette paper to make a more or less professional smoke. You could add a filter if you like. Laredo sold the machine and the supplies. Killing yourself just became cheaper.

Unfortunately, the history of the Laredo machine is shrouded in mystery. I did find out that it was roughly 1970 when it first appeared, and by the mid 70’s it remained modestly popular. The tobacco section of the drug store featured the machines and the Laredo branded tobacco, as well as complete kits that would produce a carton of smokes.

Laredo tobacco

Personally speaking, I remember seeing one up close in 1972. That was the year that we purchased a farm near Pea Ridge, Arkansas The wife of the owner was a chain smoker, and I recall a Laredo machine sitting on the kitchen table the first time we looked at the house. My mom had quit smoking the year before, and I also noticed a strong tobacco stench in the house that I had once been oblivious to.

I’ve always been fascinated by gadgets, and I stared at that plastic wonder for quite some time.

As sin taxes rose throughout the 70’s, Laredo machine sales remained steady. Technique was everything, though, and an incompetent roller could create “sticks,” as one board commenter I found in my research described them. Cramming too much tobacco into the paper tube would cause the cig to be nearly impossible to draw a breath through.

You could buy a kit to roll a carton of cigarettes for half the price of Marlboros. Thus, the inventive smoker had a way to cut the costs of his/her habit.

Like me, most kids love gadgets, and no doubt a significant number of them were delighted to create smokes for their parents with Laredo machines. One board commenter stated that he would roll out twenty every morning for his father before he went to work.

Laredo owners remained faithful to their brand, and thus the product survived. It never really tore the roof off of the market, neither did it pose any real threat to cigarette manufacturers. Eventually, it disappeared, the process no doubt aided by its original 1970 customers stopping smoking. This choice was either voluntary or not. But the Laredo cigarette machine did provide yet another contribution to the memory banks of those of us who remember JFK, and who were around smoking households in the 70’s.

13 thoughts on “The Laredo Cigarette Machine”

  1. My brother and I had one of these Loredo kits and used it often in our teen years (1970s).He bought them since he was of age.He would let me smoke off of him if I would roll us two packs at a time.

  2. I used one of these when I started smoking around 1977, I broke several machines over filling them, they came with cardboard cigarettes packs to put your cigarettes in.

  3. I think an earlier version of these machines came out in the mid to late 1960s… My great aunt Ilene bought a Laredo cigarette maker and invited everyone over to see it. She was really proud of it and had a whole production line set up on her kitchen table. The first one she had looked a bit different in my memory, less refined that the one shown. She taught us kids how to make cigarettes on it. It was a step up from rolling your own-a skill learned when I was 10 from my great uncle Ralph (he was a roll-your-own Bugler blue tobacco smoker and used make his own mentholated cigarettes by adding mentholatum crystals to it…). As for the dates, how do I know? Well, my parents were still married, my eldest brother hadn’t joined the military yet, and uncle Ralph was still alive. It’s not a perfect dating system, but it’s what I have to go by.

  4. I remember rolling them up perfectly for my parents n 2967…Cigarettes were .,45 out of the cigarette machine. Easily available to my 20 year old age at the bowling alley on Sunday mornings. Viceroy for my older sister made it easy to put a filter on my parents butts of Pall Mall and Camel nonfiltered cigs. Genius.

  5. Ahh!! Those were the days!!! Several friends and I, with no encouragement from our wives, would roll joints with the Laredo machine, using their proprietary papers. One of the guys even stuck a Filter on one! That didn’t improve the high at all! Alas, I grew up one day-hit the big 3-0, and that was the end of it!

  6. I remember my grandmother teaching me how to use her Laredo cigarette maker when I was about 10. When I would visit, I would sit at her cluttered kitchen table and make cigarettes for her until she ran out of supplies. Some didn’t come out quite right – not full enough, too full, filter partway hanging out. But I was so proud of those perfect ones!

  7. I remember my mother and her sisters breaking out one of these kits. They were all smokers. It had to be late 60’s. They sat around the kitchen table oohing and ahhing about how this was going to save them loads of money. The problem was that as chain smokers, they could barely make the things fast enough to feed their habits. Like many above, we kids were recruited to help increase the inventory. Until (dah-dah-dum) Weekly Reader came out with their campaign against smoking. Once we learned the facts, we out and out refused to participate in manufacturing!!! We took to hiding my Mom’s cigarettes, but that’s a whole different story!

  8. I remember the Laredo machine I still have it and use it. It was originally my parents. Had seen them roll them. Cigs are now 12.00 a pack so the machine is a huge saver.

    1. Dear Martha,
      I am a literary translator (English – German) and in a novel I’m working on, a person is manufacturing cigarettes with a Laredo machine. From pictures in the Internet I can’t quite figure out how it works. Where do you insert the paper or did one use prefabricated tubes? Could you please explain? It would be a great help. Thanks in advance and best regards,

  9. I think I still have mine somewhere. That said I only smoked for about 3 years from say 1968 to 1971. I had started with tip cigars but the engineer in me was fascinated by the machine so I started using it. But I wasn’t a heavy smoker and the tobacco in the can would start to dry out as soon as you opened the can and by the time I was done with the can the tobacco was so dry that it packed too tightly and the cigarettes were then too hard to draw. Also I was becoming aware of the issue of lung cancer and as I was going to bars with a friend who smoked Tareytons with their charcoal filter I switched, no more making my own. But then I quit…

  10. I didn’t care much for cigarettes, but you couldn’t smoke a pipe in a lot of areas (on airplanes for example. Yeah, in the 70’s you could still smoke on airplanes). Flying Dutchman made a shredded pipe tobacco (wonder if they’re still around?) that worked beautifully in the Loredo. When I lit up, everyone would look around for the pipe and be confused when they couldn’t find one. When the stewardesses figured it out, they thought it was great because a pipe smells better, but you could’t have an open bowl of smoldering tobacco on an airplane.

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