For the first time in the history of tobacco sales, the world’s leading provider of technologies and technical services to the international tobacco industry, Hauni Maschinenbau GmbH, has developed a solution that will actively prevent the use of tobacco products by minors after the product has left the point-of-sale.
This bold move heralds a revolution in consumer safety in the rapidly growing e-cigarette sector and is the result of Hauni’s partnership with Authenteq, a global leader in digital identity verification services. Hauni’s solution will allow e-cigarette makers to truly show their commitment to consumer safety and for the first time render straw purchases ineffective by preventing vaping among minors.
During the past decade, there has been an unprecedented increase in the number of states and countries that have passed Purchase Use and Possession (PUP) laws and, despite the comprehensive approach to reducing teen vaping, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) reported “clear signs that youth use of electronic cigarettes has reached an epidemic proportion.”
Data suggests that new legislation has curtailed the over-the-counter and online purchase of e-cigarettes by minors, but the plethora of new laws have not prevented minors from obtaining e-cigarettes. At the same time that cigarette smoking has dropped among teens, nearly 28% of high school students surveyed this year said they had used an e-cigarette at least once in the past 30 days, up from 21% a year earlier, according to a recent federal survey.
Hauni is a provider of next-generation electronic components, mobile applications and cloud services to e-cigarette manufacturers. E-cigarettes with Hauni Inside generate a fraction of the harmful substances that the most popular e-cigarettes produce today and are fully controllable via its SmartVaping app, a secure companion mobile application for iOS and Android smartphones.
Authenteq is the leading provider of 100% automated, near-instant online age and identity verification solutions. Authenteq’s contribution to the partnership offers e-cigarette makers a new scalable and fully automated way to verify the age of consumers in real-time and in less than 30 seconds. Behind the scenes of initial age verification, Authenteq assesses the customer’s selfie photo for a genuine human presence; verifies that the ID is real and valid; and performs facial recognition to compare the customer’s selfie and ID photos. Therefore verifying both that the customer and the person that the identity document belongs to are the same individual.
Authenteq’s solution uses ISO 30107-3 certified biometric liveness and spoof detection, government-grade facial recognition algorithms, and robust anti-fraud ID authentication measures to ensures that minors cannot circumvent the identity and age verification process. In addition, a GDPR-friendly biometric signature is created during verification that enables spontaneous identity spot checks via Selfie Authentication.
By seamlessly integrating Authenteq’s technology into the Hauni’s SmartVaping app, the customer’s identity is verified during device activation in a matter of seconds with the highest degree of accuracy. Once the identity is verified, the SmartVaping app allows the customer to active her new e-cigarette, thereby securing the e-cigarette to the customer using her unique biometric signature.
Thereafter, the SmartVaping app can periodically and unexpectedly require the user to take a quick selfie in order to use her e-cigarette. If the biometric signature does not match the biometric signature created during the initial identity verification process, the SmartVaping app locks the e-cigarette and prevents it from being used. In this manner, it becomes impossible for someone to use a device that was purchased and activated by another person, i.e. a minor cannot use a device that was purchased by an adult.
Whereas regulators are focusing on restricting the purchase of vaping products by minors, the approach taken by Authenteq and Hauni blocks the use of vaping products by minors entirely. “Our driving purpose for developing these next-generation components, our SmartVaping application and our Vaping Insights Platform is to improve consumer safety,” says Dr. Michael Capone, Digital Program Manager at Hauni Vaping Technologies.
“We assessed the leading third-party age verification service providers and found that they had serious drawbacks and could not prevent straw purchases.” A straw purchase, also known as a nominee purchase, is when someone acquires an e-cigarette for someone who is unable to purchase it, usually a minor, and then transfers it to that person after the purchase.
“When we tested the other services, we found that it was easy for a buyer to verify their age and identity to activate a device and then give it to another person to use. By integrating with Authenteq, we can ensure that all users are of legal age, and through random selfie checks, put an end to straw purchases and vaping by minors.”
In the next phase of the partnership, Hauni and Authenteq will launch a new geofencing service to prevent customers from activating their e-cigarettes in regions where the legal age is below 21 years and then using the e-cigarette where the legal age is 21 years. To accomplish this, anyone under the age of 21 will be required to turn on Location Services in the SmartVaping app to unlock their e-cigarette. As soon as the user enters a region where they are not of legal age to use e-cigarettes, the app will automatically lock the device.
“At Authenteq, we believe in the power that verified identities have to improve our world. Our partnership with Hauni brings consumer protection in the e-cigarette industry to a whole new level by proactively preventing minors from using the product post-purchase. As a parent myself, I am proud that the accuracy of Authenteq’s solution is being used to keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of minors. The fact that our automated process can do that in less than 30 seconds for initial activation and less than 3 seconds for a Selfie Authentication age challenge shows that effective consumer protection can be achieved without putting an undue burden on customers who are old enough to enjoy the product.” says Kari Thor Runarsson, CEO and Co-Founder of Authenteq.