back to article Photos fool cigarette age-verification software

A Japanese reporter has used family photos and magazine cut-outs to fool face-recognition software currently used in some of the country's cigarette vending machines into selling him smokes. From July, Japan’s set to introduce tough regulations allowing prosecutions to be brought against vending-machine companies whose …


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  1. Claus P. Nielsen

    How to fool the system

    Underage smokers should find comfort in the fact, that the more they smoke, the quicker they will age.

    Heavy use of tanning booths (or just spending a lot of time in the sun) will also help develop those crucial wrinkles needed to fool the vending machine.

    If all else fails (or if you are a 12-year old just starting your filthy smoking habit without older smoker friends to buy cigarettes for you), you can always try a little make-up.

  2. Kevin Johnston


    How advanced would it be to use WW2 style stereo cameras and ensure the two lenses see a different picture?

  3. Liam
    Thumb Down

    what a shite system anyway

    as we all know at 19 you have no wrinkles and at 20 you have loads! my arse!

    im 33 and i even get asked for ID occasionally while buying smokes. must be my boyish good looks eh :)

    i just cant see how any machine can tell you someone's age just by a photo! i guess it just stops lots of 20somethings?

    for ages verification why not just have it on bank cards - you DOB is known to the bank so why not? seems the most feasible one to me.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Liam

    Nice idea with the bank cards, but surely that would just give the scum another reason for pinching your bank card?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why not insist on payment by credit card?

    Don't most credit card companies require the account holder to be over 18 ?

    If they don't, then the vending machine could insist on prior registration and an additional password specifically for sale of over-18 items, with a warning that a person who gives their password to an under-18 will be prosecuted for aiding and abetting.

  6. Adam Foxton


    Ban cash sales. Credit card and PIN only. That way if kids are buying them it's with their Parent's implied consent.

    After all, no matter how badly you ignore your kids and let them play up you'd not let them have your credit card.

    It's the one with the wallet in the right hand pocket

  7. glenn


    Relying on a bank card as proof of age is also a shite system, all you would need to do is borrow a card off a sibling or buddy who is old enough to buy tabs, give them the cash, and away you go to make your purchase. It would be easier to bypass than the shoddy photo recognition system.

  8. Tim

    Another Idea.

    Why don't they move the machines to a place only 20+ people can go into, or even remove the machines altogether, that will stop the under age people buying them.

  9. Liam

    @ glenn

    wtf? i meant use a bank card - not just show em it? <sigh> and if you are stupid enough to lend someone your bank card and pin then you deserve what you get!

    of course this would also help with people buying stuff online too!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @everyone talking about using bank cards

    and in recent news (at least in this country).

    From the good old Daily Mail: How High Street bank Lloyds TSB dishes out debit cards to children as young as 11 -

  11. Azz

    Or just....

    Install huge speakers blasting out the special tone that kids can't stand and adults can't hear. Couple of hundred decibels should do it :)

    Suddenly, smoking can seriously damage your health (and ears) will become more apparent.

  12. Andrew

    at last.

    Now I can go to Japan without fear of being harassed by those menacing youths with smokes and can be free to buy soiled panties and beer from the other vending machines.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Daivd Williams

    "Nice idea with the bank cards, but surely that would just give the scum another reason for pinching your bank card?"

    This is Japan we're talking about -- where the proportion of scum youths is very much lower than here.

  14. Steven Hunter
    Thumb Up

    What about

    What about just asking a random 20something to buy them for you like everyone else in the world does?

    I turned 21 before all my pals in college and became the hooch man overnight. Made a quite a bit of spending cash that way actually.

  15. Bryce Prewitt

    Smoking age of 20?!

    And I thought the UK was supposed to be a nannystate!

  16. Chris C

    re: Or just....

    I know you're just joking, but please, don't even suggest it. As an adult who can still hear high-pitched sounds that most people can't, I can tell you it's not just annoying, it's actually painful. That's my problem with those devices -- assaulting (even if only aurally) one section of the populace to keep away another section of the populace should never be allowed (especially when there are already laws to "protect" you).

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Liam

    Using cards in Japan doesn't work, because it is not a card based society like Europe. Cash is king.

  18. Marco Alfarrobinha

    Bank cards....

    Street machines (yes, they are on the street, and no, no yobs try to break them down) in Germany can only sell if you insert an authorised debit/credit card and from what I hear, the system actually works.

    So there.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ @everyone talking about using bank cards

    thats not news mate, natwest gave me a debit card 10 years ago shortly after my 11th birthday, i could even use it to buy knives off the internet. those were the days...

  20. David


    I remember seeing cigarette machines everywhere when I was a kid. My kids would have no idea what one was if they saw it. USA just did away with the machines altogether. Has there ever been 1 kid anywhere, anytime, that could not get a cig, if they wanted one? Restrictions only serve to teach work arounds. Educating the kids, make them watch grandpa die of cancer, that's what prevents kids starting smoking.

  21. Nexox Enigma

    Different Spectrum?

    If you're going to have 2 cameras, screw stereo, just get an IR image of the face. A magazine cut out won't have anywhere close to the same thermal image as a real face. Then again I have no idea how much an IR camera of high enough quality would cost.

  22. trackSuit

    Trade routes through smoke filled rooms

    This article left me with the impression that it is getting harder for children to buy and therefore smoke cigarettes.

    In the city where I live, there seem to be more children and young adults smoking cigarettes than there were this time last last year.

    I assume there is now a well developed black market for buying cigarettes. If that sounds cynical, then ask yourself what a cigarette company would do when faced with advertising restrictions. Would they put they feet up and sigh and contemplate halcyon days, or would they get busy developing new distribution and marketing routes / means?

    Many smokers buy cigarettes duty-free in bulk or buy them from people who import them by means of an undeclared business.

    When people buy cigarettes in bulk, it is less likely that the odd missing packet (or three) will be noticed as missing.

    It only takes one child in a class of kids whose parents smoke heavily and who turn a blind eye to the regular disapperance of some of their packets of cigarettes. There is also no shortage of children who are given 'guilt money' by parents. Buying a packet of cigarettes is easy for a child who wanders around with 30 quid or more in their pocket.

    And what of the high-tech vending machines? A clear conscience for the tobacco companies? No trouble from politicians? A smoke-screen [sic] for society who will see the machines and then not even wonder at the increase in the young smoking population?

    This is not a rant though... and time will tell if I was right. Look for an increase in the number of young smokers, or a change to the way official statistics are processed.

  23. Andreas

    @Kevin Johnston

    Not advanced enough as kids would start carrying aged mannequins or blowup dolls... :)

  24. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    If they don't want to sell to kids...

    ...couldn't they just fix the machines further up the wall?

  25. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: If they don't want to sell to kids...


  26. Andreas

    @Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    OK, so now kids will be carrying chairs as well!

    The things kids will do for a pack of smokes...

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