Wrinkles could be key to buying cigarettes in Japan

By Euphoric · May 16, 2008 · ·
  1. Euphoric
    Wrinkles could be key to buying cigarettes in Japan

    Mon May 12, 5:53 AM

    TOKYO (Reuters) - Cigarette vending machines in Japan may soon start counting wrinkles, crow's feet and skin sags to see if the customer is old enough to smoke.

    The legal age for smoking in Japan is 20 and as the country's 570,000 tobacco vending machines prepare for a July regulation requiring them to ensure buyers are not underage, a company has developed a system to identify age by studying facial features.

    By having the customer look into a digital camera attached to the machine, Fujitaka Co's system will compare facial characteristics, such as wrinkles surrounding the eyes, bone structure and skin sags, to the facial data of over 100,000 people, Hajime Yamamoto, a company spokesman said.

    "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," Yamamoto said.

    Japan's finance ministry has already given permission to an age-identifying smart card called "taspo" and a system that can read the age from driving licenses.

    It has yet to approve the facial identification method due to concerns about its accuracy.

    Yamamoto said the system could correctly identify about 90 percent of the users, with the remaining 10 percent sent to a "grey zone" for "minors that look older, and baby-faced adults," where they would be asked to insert their driving license.

    Underage smoking has been on a decline in Japan, but a health ministry survey in 2004 showed 13 percent of boys and 4 percent of girls in the third year of high school -- those aged 17 to 18 -- smoked every day.

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  1. Joe Duffy
    I wonder if a wrinkly mask would be able to outdo that system. :laugh:
  2. Nature Boy
    That sounds absolutely bizarre. No more cigarettes for baby-faced assassins.
  3. aerozeppelin123
    Lol this is pretty funny. To me it seems like a typically Japanese thing to do i.e. using technology in innovative and often bizarre ways. Would be a good system if they could get the accuracy high enough I think
  4. Purest
    doesnt stop people walking into shops and buying them. When the dinosaur visited japan at age 17 he had no problems being served alcohol and cigarettes wherever her went despite their drinking ages, but then again, gaijin get away with practically anything.
  5. moda00
    This is true in swim's experience as well. Swim lived there for a few months when she was 16 or so. She bought wine and sake to bring home and got tipsy on the plane (makes 16 hours go a little bit faster hehe). Never tried buying cigarettes, but she noted (and photographed) the cigarette and beer vending machines with amusement.

    I think part of it is that Westerners tend to appear older than their age to Japanese people, many people believed swim to be older than she was, also it is true that gaijin can get away with quite a bit.. although swim's drunk-on-the-plane incident was really the only time she tried to push any buttons, she was mostly there to learn and experience the culture, and this was before she was hardcore, and thus she did not go on too many (any) underage binges of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use while there, lol.

    I think also culturally, there is a big difference- while this technology is now being implemented, it says something that for so long, vending machines like this were and are prevalent without any form of id check.

    Swim recalls taking a bus or train with her host sister, and realized that there was one door to enter with a device to collect one's fare/ticket, and another without. Swim asked, couldn't someone just get on through the other door (supposed to be the exit area) and not pay?? Her host sister replied, seeming surprised, why would they do that? That would be wrong/illegal? Certainly there is substance use and crime in Japan, but it is a lot more "under the radar" in mainstream society than it is here, imo, and children are children- there is not such a gap between "children" and "adolescents/young adults" and family life is a lot more involved throughout high school and college, with a greater emphasis on school in high school and less so in college (seems reversed from in the US). My host sisters studied for hours on end, they didn't have the time nor the desire to "party." Recreation involves purikura (picture booth), arcades, karaoka, and going in the onsen/hot spring baths. Cigarette smoking and alcohol use was very uncommon in our high school- on the last day of the semester, there was a class party and whatnot, unofficial of course but everyone in the class came- there was a real sense of community- and the instructor too. We went to a local park after dark and lit off fireworks, and had snacks and hung out. While surely their society has problems like cigarette use and underage drinking, it seems there is a larger chasm between those who partake and those who don't; that the society is set up in such a way that those who do not confirm to the cultural norms are completely ostracized and set apart. Not that it is "better" or "worse" than here.. just different. I think things like drug addiction and poverty are more visible and more acknowledged here, but it doesn't mean they are addressed any more efficiently.. It is good to acknowledge problems, but this also imo is a big burden on young people, and many grow up (too) quickly due to the exposure to these things, whereas in Japan the 16-17 year old students retained their "innocence" to some extent. Note, this is my experience having gone to two high school in the US and visiting one in Japan, so does not apply to everyone, and I don't mean to stereotype.
  6. classyfashh
    I would just scrunch up my face when I looked in the camera. And anyway, that's extremely pathetic. Like, in what chance would you find some 20 year old with wrinkles and sags? Haha. A lot of people look younger for their age. It'd be much more convenient to just scan your I.D. and THEN your face or some crap.:confused:
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