Thursday, 1 May 2008

A public information announcement for Smokers

Just a short one. Something most people know about Japan is that there are vending machines for all sorts of things. Everywhere. From soft drinks to alcohol, flowers to rice, hot food to cigarettes, and some rather more infamous ones (which personally I've never seen). Of course, having vending machines for such things as alcohol and cigarettes does mean anyone can buy from them. Well, from today, 1st May, for cigarettes, that is no longer true here in Hokkaido. Because today an age verification system known as “Taspo” - essentially an identity card for use when buying cigarettes from vending machines - is introduced: I imagine the name “Taspo” comes from a contraction of the Japanese for tobacco and passport.

The system was initially trialled in parts of Kyushu, and has now been introduced in the rest of Kyushu, Shikoku, Western and Northern Honshu and Hokkaido. The plan is to roll it out to the whole of Japan by July. The “Taspo” card is a contactless “smart-card”, which can also optionally be loaded up with cash for use when buying cigarettes. To get a “Taspo” card, you have to register by producing relevant documentary evidence of identity: name, address, and date of birth (minimum smoking age in Japan is 20). Note that only documents issued in Japan are valid for this purpose. So foreign residents with valid residency or registration documentation will be able to get one, but, from my understanding, tourists and others on short-term visas who have not registered will not. So they'll presumably just have to go into the shop to buy their cigarettes from now on.

As a non-smoker, I'm not affected by this at all. But I thought it a very Japanese solution to the problem of under-age smoking, rather than just getting rid if the machines – there haven't been cigarette vending machines in the UK for a very long time (although this Japan Times article mentions that the same solution to the problem has also been introduced in Germany) - so I thought it worth mentioning here. Full details on the system, registration process, and how to use the cards, can be found here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Next generation cigarette machines: