New ID Card for Cigarette Vending Machines Smokes Out Minors

Prove, pay & puffProve, pay & puff


Cigarette smoking in Japan has dropped considerably from its 1966 peak of 49 percent of adults. Even so, over a half-million cigarette vending machines remain tempting targets for underage (under 20, in Japan's case) smokers.


A 2004 survey showed that 13 percent of boys and 4 percent of girls aged 17 to 18 smoked every day, so the problem is real. The new "TASPO" card aims to make using the machines much more difficult for minors to use. One wonders if the same technology will be utilized to deal with the popular beer and whiskey vending machines that are also currently all-access... makes sense!

Choose your poisonChoose your poison

The new blue TASPO (which stands for "Tobacco Access Passport") cards are free but require smokers to send proof of age documentation to the Japan Tobacco Institute. Once the applicant receives their TASPO, however, they will be able to use it as a payment card in the cigarette machines. The cards will bear a photo of the applicant - though vending machines will not be able to determine whether the user matches their photo. Not yet, at least.


With 570,000 cigarette vending machines scattered across the length and breadth of Japan, converting them to accept card readers will be neither cheap nor easy - the estimated cost is about 90 billion yen (about $75 million). Regardless, it does seem to be an innovative and ultimately effective way to reduce smoking among Japanese youth. (via Reuters & Yahoo! News)

What do you think, would this system work in Europe orNorth America, or was it designed with the norms and mores of Japanese culture in mind?

Steve Levenstein
Japanese Innovations Writer

Oct 21, 2007
by Casual Adventurer (not verified)

The cost of Smoking

What a great Idea..... They could link the card to the smokers health insurance account....... No purchase of cigarettes should be allowed unless they are doing something to contribute to the higher costs of their medical care that will have to be supported by the community later in their lives.....

Oct 22, 2007
by Ben (not verified)

About time

This is long overdue - it's always been an easy route to getting your smokes for the under age

Jan 16, 2008
by Celine (not verified)

Great idea but...

Wouldn't teens just use the card of an older friend to get their cigarettes?