In a move that’s sure to annoy tobacco-lovers nationwide, especially underage ones, Japan has announced that the country’s 620,000 cigarette vending machines will be replaced with models that require an RFID-embedded age-verification card to release their delicious-but-deadly wares.

The Tobacco Institute of Japan said Thursday it will start switching cigarette vending machines nationwide to new machines featuring an age-verification system from March 2008 to prevent minors from buying cigarettes.

The institute announced that a total of 620,000 tobacco vending machines nationwide will be switched during 2008 to types that can read "tobacco cards" with integrated circuit chips bought by adult smokers. With the introduction of such vending machines, smokers would need to carry the micro-chip imbedded cards, with the new vending machines reading them through a sensor. The tobacco cards will have the function of prepaid cards, so smokers can buy tobacco products with them.

This won’t have much of an impact for those who buy their smokes by the carton or over-the-counter, but if a tobacco jones hits you while you’re jammin’ at the karaoke bar, you’d better be sporting your "smoker’s card" (which, conveniently, can also be used to pay for your habit) . We’re not really sure how effective this system is going to be, though, as it probably won’t be all that difficult for kids to buy one of these exclusive cards from some shady non-smoking adult.