Vape vending machine trial goes live in stores

For the first time in the UK, people can use a digital ID on their smartphones to buy vape products from a vending machine as part of a 12-month trial approved by Bucks & Surrey Trading Standards.

It has been a decade since the sale of tobacco products from machines was banned in the UK to prevent them getting into under-aged hands.

Using digital identification technology from age verification company 1account, the vape vending machines are designed so only identity and age-checked adults can access them.

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The company has integrated its software to machines built by vending manufacturer Aeguana, and is in discussion with other manufacturers.

The first of the new generation vending machines has been installed in the Leicester branch of specialist vape retailer Ecigwizard, however, a household grocery retailer will also trial the vending machines at its stores this spring with more brands set to follow.

How it works

To create the digital ID, consumers must download the 1account’s app, upload a form of ID to prove their age and who they are, and take a selfie. This information is cross referenced and verified with multiple data points such as mobile phone records, and the digital ID is ready to go.

At the vending machine, the consumer can select the product they want before opening the app and scanning a QR code on the machine to unlock it.

Then their identity information, including age and photo image, are checked and verified to ensure the person making the purchase is over 18 and who they say they are. They then make a card payment and their product is dispensed.

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The company said it aims to provide better access to age-restricted goods and services, especially for those with less access to traditional forms of identity such as passports or driving licences, while better protecting children by restricting their exposure to age-inappropriate goods and services online and in store.

Ben Keirle, founder and chief executive officer of 1account, said: “The use of vending machines for the sale of consumable products has grown significantly in recent years as retailers better understand the demands of modern consumers.

“This pilot with Ecigwizard, and future trial partners, aims to evaluate if the sale of age-restricted goods can form part of the continued expansion of this new generation of ‘smart’ vending machines which ensure children are not able to access age-restricted products.

“Before the ban on cigarette vending machines was introduced 10 years ago, it was estimated 35 million cigarettes were sold illegally through vending machines to children every year.

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“This new generation of machines provides adults with greater access to vape products. Today, adult customers have greater than ever choice where they buy their vape products, including specialist vape retail stores, supermarkets, convenience stores, online and now vending machines.

“This is important as vaping is widely evidenced as the best way to quit smoking and therefore has a critical role to play in helping the government achieve its target of a smokefree England by 2030.”

The introduction of the vending machine is part of 1account’s plans to roll out its digital ID technology in shops selling age-restricted products such as alcohol, knives and medication, as well as in establishments where it is illegal for under-18s to be present including pubs, nightclubs and casinos.

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