We’ve written before about Taspo, the RFID-chipped ID card that allows “of age” (20 or older) smokers to get their smokes through any of the nations 420,000 tobacco vending machines. Mostly the campaign has been a disaster for folks who own vending machines, a boom for convenience stores (where you don’t need the cards), and and a burden for smokers who just want to buy a pack without registering themselves with Big Brother.
Taspo originally began their campaign to get people to sign up by providing application packets at vending machines. These required applicants to submit copies of identification, fill out a form, and provide pictures in specific sizes before mailing it all in. When this didn’t work, they began to set up stalls in conventions and train stations (like this one) to get folks signed up without having to pay for a picture.
Clearly, this hasn’t worked either, as a Taspo service center has even opened up in Yoyogi to provide instant ID checks and card creation within 30 minutes.
Out of 27 million smokers in Japan, only 33.7% have signed up for the card, a significant amount if you consider that the rest have nearly no chance to use vending machines at all. In fact, convenience store sales have jumped to record highs in the last year thanks to the “Taspo Boom” in the midst of recession.
Going by purely anecdotal evidence and personal experience, even the heaviest smokers want nothing to do with the card. For most, however, it’s not a privacy issue, but one of pride: They don’t want an official “smoking license”, complete with a picture of themselves, to buy something that is their choice. In order to protect a small minority (teenagers) the rest of society must bear the burden of Taspo.
If tobacco makers are actually interested in selling their products and not just submitting to what will surely become complete regulation, they would be embracing vending machines with facial recognition, rather than making their customers file with the authorities. Of course, facial recognition doesn’t always work, but it’s a relatively non-invasive way to solve a problem that isn’t such a big deal to begin with.
In the meantime, convenience stores should beware: Increased sales in your sector mean that you’re next on the chopping block. Expect a full-on Taspo reader integrated into cash registers in no time.