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    Futuristic Vending Machines for Cigarettes Developed

    Age-verification technology makes cigarette vending possible in Japan.

    Fueled by growing concerns over health problems related to underage smoking, Japan's tobacco industry will introduce vending machines with age-verification technology in 2008 to prevent underage consumers from purchasing cigarettes, The Japan Times reported.

    The Tobacco Institute of Japan, the Japan Tobacconist Federation and the Japan Vending Machine Manufacturers Association partnered for the new machines, and will begin accepting applications in December 2007 via local tobacco shops and the Internet for integrated circuit cards that will be needed to buy products from the machines.

    Trials in Yokaichiba, Chiba Prefecture, Tanegashima and Kagoshima Prefecture dating back to April 2002 were successful and proved the system worked, the report stated. The vending machines dispense cigarettes after the consumers IC (integrated circuit) card has been scanned and verified.

    "Preventing minors from smoking is important," Yuji Abe of the Tobacco Institute of Japan told the Times. "We would like to ask adult smokers who use vending machines for understanding and cooperation and hope they will obtain the cards."

    Development and implementation will cost 80 billion yen, according to industry groups cited by the report. Tobacco Institute of Japan will issue the "taspo" cards -- a combination of the words tobacco, access and passport -- that will feature electronic money functions to purchase the products.

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