JAPAN

Japan’s young smokers find a way around wrinkle-scanners

Blogger "Pink Tentacle" has written about the discovery by a Japanese reporter that you can trick newly introduced age-verifying scanners on cigarette vending machines by holding up a picture of somebody older. Read more...

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You can get pretty much anything through a vending machine in Japan these days - even bread. But for products that come with an age restriction, the authorities are having a hard time thinking up new ways to prevent under-agers from getting their hands on them. Blogger "Pink Tentacle" has written about the discovery by a Japanese reporter that you can trick newly introduced age-verifying scanners on cigarette vending machines by holding up a picture of somebody older.

The wrinkle-scanning machines have barely come off the production line but are already proven failures in deterring under-20s (the legal age) from lighting up. With Japan counting one of the highest smoking rates in the world, it seems like a lame attempt at tackling the problem. Our Observer in the country wonders whether the Japanese government's 50% share in the tobacco industry has anything to do with it.

Smoking is "the first move to a better lifestyle"

Advertising on a cigarette machine in Japan. Posted by "digitalnut" 9 June 05.

"It's a token gesture"

Lee Chapman is a British expat who's been living in Japan for over ten years:

There is a lot more smoking here than in the West, although it's changed a lot in the last decade. Ten years ago there was smoking here there and everywhere. A packet of fags still only costs 320 Yen (under €2).

The government just wants to be seen to be doing something - it's a token gesture. When you think about their share in Japan Tobacco, it gives the story a different slant. There's the health cost but they also gain financially from sales. They must be making a hell of a lot of money."