March 7 – For the first time in the UK, people can buy e-cigarette products from vending machines using a digital ID on their smartphones. As part of a 12-month trial approved by Bucks & Surrey Trading Standards – a decade after the sale of tobacco products through machines was banned from keeping them out of the hands of minors.
Trading Standards’ proposals extend to high street retailers, bars, and even NHS locations in an attempt to make their premises completely smoke-free.
Using the technology from award-winning age verification specialists “1account”, high-tech e-cigarette vending machines ensure that only adults who have undergone identity and age checks can access them.
The company has integrated its software into machines made by leading London-based vending machine manufacturer Aeguana and discussions with other manufacturers.
The first generation of vending machines has been installed in the Leicester branch of specialist e-cigarette retailer Ecigwizard. Still, this spring, the household name grocery retailer will also be trialing vending machines in its stores, with more brands to follow.
To create a digital ID, users download 1account’s app, upload an ID form to prove their age and identity, and then take a selfie. This information is cross-referenced and verified with multiple data points, including cell phone records, and the digital ID is ready to use.
At the vending machine, consumers open the app and scan a QR code to unlock it, then intelligently check their identification information, including age and a photo image, to ensure the purchaser is 18 years old or older and who they say they are. They can then select the product they want, make a card payment and pick up the item.
Smart vending offers unprecedented convenience
1account’s mission is to provide better access to age-restricted goods and services. It is especially true for those who have difficulty obtaining traditional forms of identification, such as passports or driver’s licenses, while protecting children by limiting their access to age-inappropriate goods and services, both online and offline.
“The use of vending machines to sell consumer goods has increased significantly in recent years as retailers better understand the needs of the modern consumer,” said Ben Keirle, founder and CEO of 1account.
This project with “Ecigwizard” and Future Trials Partners is designed to evaluate whether the sale of age-restricted goods can be part of the continued expansion of next-generation intelligent vending to ensure that children do not have access to age-restricted products.
Before launching the project, 1account conducted an extensive consultation process to assess the need and support for the e-cigarette vending concept. Including meetings with Members of Parliament, Public Health England, and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, including ASH, the New Nicotine Alliance and Smokefree Apps, the UK e-cigarette industry association, and various e-cigarette academic experts, including those from King’s College London.
“Before the ban on cigarette vending machines a decade ago, an estimated 35 million cigarettes were sold illegally to children through vending machines each year,” continued Ben Keirle.
This new generation of machines, combined with our leading digital ID technology, provides adults greater access to e-cigarette products. Public Health England says the e-cigarettes are at least 95% less harmful than traditional cigarettes and prevent children under 18 from getting hold of e-cigarette devices and e-liquids.
“Today, adult customers have more choices than ever before in where to purchase e-cigarettes, including specialty e-cigarette retailers, supermarkets, convenience stores, online and now in vending machines.”
“This is important because e-cigarettes are widely proven to be the best way to quit smoking and therefore play a key role in helping the government achieve its goal of a smoke-free UK by 2030.”
John Dunn, director-general of the UK e-cigarette trade association, welcomed the announcement of the 1account e-cigarette vending machine.
He added: E-cigarettes have been one of the most disruptive and thriving business sectors of the 21st century. Innovation has been at the heart of its substantial positive impact on the health of ex-smokers and the country’s economy. The advent of e-cigarette vending machines is another example of the industry’s innovative spirit that will support more smokers in successfully transitioning from traditional cigarettes to significantly less harmful e-cigarette products while boosting the retail economy.
“Today, there are approximately 2.4 million former adult smokers who have switched entirely to e-cigarettes, while the prevalence of smoking among those under the age of 18 is relatively low. Vending machines with built-in digital ID technology will help ensure that both of these trends continue.”
The launch of the vending machines is part of 1account’s expansion program to roll out its digital ID technology in stores that sell age-restricted products such as alcohol, knives, and drugs; and in venues where U18s are illegal, including bars, nightclubs, and casinos.
The company is also taking part in a Home Office sandbox test with “Rekom,” the UK’s largest nightclub, which will see digital IDs tested for clubbers who want to leave their physical IDs at home.
“1account” recently appointed Ralph Topping and Simon Bazalgette, former CEOs of William Hill and The Jockey Club, respectively, and Mark Aylwin, former managing director of Booker, to their advisory board to drive the adoption of digital IDs in the sector.