Big in Japan: New cigarette vending machines can count your wrinkles

One of the things first-time visitors to Japan never seem to stop marveling about is the country’s futuristic vending machines. Indeed, it’s possible to get pretty much anything out of a vending machine here, from hot ramen and frozen ice cream bars to clean T-shirts and used school girl panties…

However, the retail landscape across Japan is about to change dramatically, thanks to a new type of cigarette vending machine that can actually count your wrinkles! In an effort to prevent underage smokers from illegally purchasing cigarettes, a Japanese company has developed a vending machine that can check a smoker’s age by studying the lines on their face.

Fujitaka’s new cigarette vending machines will employ an advanced facial recognition system that compares a buyer’s bone structure, skin sag, brow wrinkles and crow’s feet against a record of more than 100,000 people. If the buyer fails the visual scan, they will be required to insert their ID card into the machine in order to verify that they are of legal age to smoke.

If this new technology catches on, it looks like Botox users might have some difficulty buying cigarettes in the years to come (^_^)

The new cigarette vending machines are the latest effort to combat underage smoking in Japan. While the trend has been in steady decline over the last few years, a recent study showed that 14% of boys and 4% of girls aged 17 and 18 smoke every day.

According to company spokesman Mr. Hajime Yamamoto: “With face recognition, so long as you’ve got some change and you are an adult, you can buy cigarettes like before. The problem of minors borrowing identification cards to purchase cigarettes could be avoided as well.”

The new vending machines come at a time when tobacco companies are facing increased scrutiny from both the general public and the Japanese government.

Starting in July, companies owning cigarette vending machines can be prosecuted for the sale of tobacco to anyone under the legal age. In a country where there are more than half a million cigarette vending machines, the legal implications of this new law are severe.

The Japanese finance minister has already granted permission for all cigarette vending machines to start requesting either a smart ID card or driver’s license as a means of verifying age.

However, it is possible that facial scans may also become standardized across the country. At present, the only foreseeable problem is the so-called “grey zone for baby-faced adults,” though this could be overcome by simply asking buyers to also insert their smart card.

Regardless of where your convictions lie in the public debate over smoking, I think it’s safe to say that everyone agrees that kids shouldn’t smoke (at least I hope so!).

Besides, in an age where the quest to look forever young has become something of an obsession, you may soon be able to get confirmation of your visible youth by simply buying a pack of cigarettes!

Then again, smoking does cause irreversible aging of the skin, so perhaps it’s best to go easy on the Marlboros…