Germany’s cigarette vending machines are to be payment card-enabled from January 1, 2007 in a bid by health officials to reduce smoking rates in the youth and teenage populations.

Adult smokers are to receive a chip-based credit card with a “Jugendschutzmerkmal" (youth protection symbol), which will prevent under-16s from using the machines. Legislation in April 2003 banned the sale of cigarettes to under-16s, but this law did not cover vending machines, which means the country’s 800,000 cigarette vending machines need to be adapted for the new chip-based cards.

As of 2002, cigarette machines accounted for two-thirds of the 1.2 million vending machines in Germany, which had the second-greatest number per head of population in the world after Japan. However, as vending machines are chip card-enabled for the dual purposes of payment security and the protection of minors, Germany’s total number of cigarette vending machines is tipped to fall to 450,000. Proactive vending machine operators will take the opportunity to assess the value of cashless payments to their businesses and to install the appropriate technology for their needs.