I generally buy cigarettes by the carton, having them delivered because in my area of the wilds of the Saitama/Gunma border country Marlboros aren't available within walking distance. If I run out in more metropolitan areas, there are plenty of convenience stores selling cigarettes, so I almost never buy them from vending machines.
Thus, I haven't bothered to go through the trouble of acquiring a "taspo" card, the "smart card" recently required to prove to many cigarette vending machines that you're at least 20 years old. I fully expected the cards to be yet another solution that created its own problems, too, and recent news seems to prove me right.
First I saw the case of a mother loaning her 15-year-old son her card:
Then I saw an even funnier case, in which a vending machine owner attached a card to the machine, utterly defeating the purpose of the card, but perhaps helping him to get back some of the 20% reduced sales the introduction of the card system cost him:
I find the situation hilarious. I'm also amused by the fact that, to the best of my knowledge, nobody has suggested making a similar system for the numerous vending machines that sell alcoholic beverages (including some that even sell full-size whiskey bottles).
I guess they feel that the law passed 20 years or so ago, requiring vending machines of this type to be turned off at 23:00, as a measure to prevent minors from buying booze and cigarettes, actually serves its purpose, rather than just inconveniencing machine owners (often poor senior citizen shop owners) and adult customers who live closer to vending machines than to convenience stores. As far as I can tell, it's inconveniencing minors who want to drink or smoke very little if at all.
I suppose that it gives some bureaucrats and busybodies, somewhere, the mistaken feeling that they've done something useful, for a change.