ID Cards Needed for Cigarette Machines

A cigarette vending machineIf you are in Japan, you have probably already seen the bright yellow notices plastered all over the country’s cigarette vending machines. At first, I thought it was some fancy advertising campaign, but instead, they are announcing the launch of “taspo”, an ID card embedded with an IC (integrated circuit) chip containing information proving the owner is at least 20 years old (the legal age for purchasing cigarettes).

What does it say?

Each notice reads something along the lines of,

To prevent underage smoking, as of June 1st, if you don’t have a taspo card, you won’t be able to buy cigarettes at this machine.

Announcing the start of taspo.

How to get a taspo card

Getting a card looks nearly as troublesome as applying for a passport or an alien registration card! The taspo website is in both English and Japanese, but the application form is in Japanese only. There are very clear English instructions on the site which show you what you need and where to put it. Generally, you need to fill in your name, date of birth, address and phone number. You must write with a black ball pen, and include the katakana version of your name. Your address must be written in Japanese, and everything must match your alien registration card, which you’ll need to provide a readable copy of.

taspo - saving the health of millions of teenagers?

Do the benefits outweigh the hassle?

Well, I don’t think so. If you’re already 20 or over, this is no more than a huge inconvenience. Of course, they try to appeal to the nobler motive of saving the health of our youngsters, but if that were the case, why didn’t they just remove the machines years ago and force you to buy cigarettes over the counter?

Then they try to sell you on the convenience of having a prepaid card that you merely have to swish over the sensor to get your tobacco fix. Big deal.

Is this really a good thing?

Smokers and non-smokers alike will most probably agree that steps taken to prevent youngsters smoking is a good thing. However, I argue that since the number of smokers is decreasing dramatically anyway (source), why is it necessary to introduce ID cards now? Why not let the number of smokers naturally fall instead of messing about with IC chips, forms and photographs?

Could there be an ulterior motive?

First, I would imagine some vending machine companies will profit immensely from replacing or adapting every single cigarette machine in the country. Has this been mentioned in the news?

Second, If I was the head of Japan Tobacco, this would be the perfect opportunity to gather customer data. I don’t know whether those IC chips can record what brand of cigarettes you buy and how often, or whether that data is sent to JT HQ when you charge your card, but they would definitely have all your personal details (and photo) stored on their computers from the application process, and let’s not forget that Japan Tobacco is still half owned by the government, which doesn’t fill me with confidence.

The taspo card seems to be a stepping stone toward the government and associated businesses eventually storing all our personal data and tracking our purchases. How long will it be before we all have one single card (or something built into our cell phones) that tells everything about us; who we are, where we live, what we do, what we buy, and even where we are right now?

You may think those New World Order folks are crazy with their talk of implanting IC chips into all of us, but that seems to be the direction we are heading with today’s “convenient” technology.

Anyway, I haven’t had a cigarette for about nine months, and taspo won’t encourage me to start again! 😛

If you like, you can find me on Twitter at @nick_ramsay. I'd love to hear from you!

17 thoughts on “ID Cards Needed for Cigarette Machines

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  2. Congrats on the 9 months, buddy. Also, I’ve seen a few alcohol vending machines here that require ID of some kind. (Fearing a malfunction, I never insert any of my IDs into any machine here! I just buy my beer at the store. No problemo.) Any rumors of an Alcohol version of the Taspo card?

  3. I smoke (I know I should quit – don’t nag me…) and I’ll stick with the Daily Yamazaki for now although I might be sorry if I am ever desperate for a cigarette.

    Funny you should mention the beer, Deas – I was thinking that if they do it for cigarettes they should do it for beer and the other alcohol sold out of vending machines too.

    I wonder which is worse a smoking teenager or a drunk one?

    Good post Nick!

  4. I haven’t seen so many beer machines around lately. They used to be everywhere, but not anymore. You usually have to buy your beer over the counter now, which would be the more sensible solution for cigarettes, particularly as most vending machines are right in front of 24-hour convenience stores anyway!

    Shane, I’m not going to nag you. I envy you! :mrgreen:

  5. Yes there is a New order and it is only a matter on time before they (Evil Evil Evil axis of Evil America and it’s Evil buddies in the G8 plus little old Australia) start planting Micro-chips in babies.
    Geez they are probably already doing it and we just don’t know about it!
    Manipulation of the consumer is getting worse and worse and to think that the Japanese cronies (Government or so-called Government) actually still owns half of Japan Tobacco is mind-boggling to say the least.
    Why not get rid of the vending machines? Can’t do that because this is a trial run on how the public accept this type of thing. Accept this and then there will be much more data attacks on us!!
    Do the cronies own half of the vending machine companies too???


    1. They are getting close! Half the birthing facilities in Ohio are tagging babies with chips in ankle bracelets to deter baby snatchers: Hospitals tagging babies with electronic chips. I’m sure once the technology is ready, fear campaigns will encourage mothers to go for under-the-skin implants. Then they can boot up Windows and track their children with GPS navigation! 😈

  6. I guess if it works on animals it could work on people too. Isn’t that how the humane society in most cities reunite lost pets with their owners?

  7. It would be great if people refused to get on board with the new system and just stopped using cigarette vending machines altogether. They use up energy and take up space.

    1. Since most of them are right outside convenience stores, I think you might just have your wish! Why bother applying for a taspo card when you can just walk in the shop and buy your cigarettes over the counter? This move could very well mark the end of the cigarette vending machine.

  8. After 16 yrs of smoking over a packet a day, i’m now 3 yrs without a smoke ….. still feel like one every now and then though … and it doesn’t help they’re so cheap here!

  9. I find it ironic that they don’t have nicotine patch or nicotine gum vending machines. They give all this lip service to the dangers of smoking, but do little or nothing to help people quit. I guess they figure they won’t be able to milk the cash cow that is big Tobacco if they actually start providing ways for people to quit.

    I always laugh on the subway or train when I see the little stick figure posters explaining how rude second hand smoke is. Why not put up a bunch of posters showing smoke ravaged lungs or people with advanced stages of lung cancer? Put the fear factor to good use!

    1. You can’t even buy nicotine patches without a doctor’s prescription here, and I’ve only ever seen the weak 2mg nicotine gum in Japan, and it’s way overpriced!

      The JT advertising campaign is very clever. Let me quote Ken’s Greenest Company article:

      As for Japan Tobacco, this survey highlights how clever, evily clever, their advertising team are. Smoking outside has been changed from a health issue to litter and safety issues, with the dangers being poking children in the eyes with lighted ciggies or dropping butt ends rather than dying horribly from cancer or living out your twilight years dragging an oxygen bottle behind you.

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  11. Ulterior motive?
    Yes of course!!!
    The gov. is try to count the how # people that smoke so they can get an idea of what percentage will pay for a higher price.

    Never ever get a taspo card – same as alien registration.

    My tabakoya tried to get me to get one even though they know my tabako flavor will never be available in a vending machine

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