Age verification tech business 1account has launched a vape vending machine, which will appear in grocery stores this spring.
The first of the machines has been installed in the Leicester branch of specialist vape retailer Ecigwizard as part of a 12-month trial, which will also see them appear at “a household name grocery retailer” the company said.
To buy products from the machine, vapers download the 1account app, upload a form of ID to prove their age and who they are, and take a selfie. Their information is cross-referenced and verified with multiple data points including mobile phone records.
At the vending machine, the customer selects the product they want before opening the app and scanning a QR code on the machine to unlock it. They then make a card payment and their product is dispensed.
“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,” Ben Keirle, founder and CEO of 1account, told The Grocer. “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”.
The trial was approved by Bucks & Surrey Trading Standards and covers high street retail, pubs and NHS locations. In the initial trial, 1account software has been integrated into machines built by London-based vending manufacturer Aeguana. The company’s ambition is to roll out its digital ID technology in shops selling age restricted products including alcohol, knives and medications, as well as in establishments where it is illegal for under-18s to be present, such as pubs, nightclubs and casinos.
The company is also participating in the Home Office sandbox test in which Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Aldi and Co-op are also taking part, using tech to approve sales of alcohol.
The launch of the vending machine comes a decade after the sale of cigarettes from vending machines was banned in the UK, in a move to curtail underage purchases.
“Cigarette vending machines are often unsupervised, making it easy for children to purchase cigarettes from them,” then health secretary Andrew Lansley said at the time.
Before the ban it was estimated that 35 million cigarettes were being sold illegally through vending machines to children every year.
“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,” Kierle said.
“This new generation of machines, incorporating our leading-edge digital ID technology, provides adults with greater access to vape products, which the government states are at least 95% less harmful than conventional cigarettes, while at the same time safeguarding against under 18s getting their hands on vape devices and e-liquids,” he added.
Ahead of the trial, 1account said it carried out an “extensive consultation process to gauge demand and support” for the concept, including with MPs, smoking cessation and vaping bodies and academics.
“The advent of the vape vending machine is another example of the innovative spirit within the sector, which will support more smokers in making a successful transition from conventional cigarettes to considerably less harmful vape products and at the same time boosting the retail economy,” said John Dunne, director general of the UK Vaping Industry Association.
“Today there are some 2.4 million former adult smokers as a result of completely switching over to vaping and there is relatively low take-up among under 18-year-olds,” Dunne added. “The vending machine, with its built-in digital ID technology, will help to ensure both trends continue.”