SoraNews24 takes you on a super-serious expose of the dark world of underage smoking.
Recently, increasing regulations on smoking have been a big topic in the news with the government proposing non-smoking legislation in most bars and restaurants and a further price increase on tobacco products. But that still doesn’t address the root of the problem, which is young Japanese men and women getting hooked on tobacco in the first place.
In the past few years, minors have been blocked from vending machines by the requirement of a special ID card to unlock them. This leaves the humble convenience store as the front line against this social ill. So, to see how well these gatekeepers to addictive substances are performing we decided to send one of our reporters in undercover as a high school student.
For years, verifying the age of shoppers has been rather easy for store clerks, as students by and large are required to wear conspicuous uniforms. Any staff member willing to sell tobacco or alcohol to someone in a school uniform is just begging for a fine and/or firing.
So even Mr. Sato, at the ripe old age of 43 yet aided by the attitude of a teen he developed after receiving his punch perm hairdo, is instantly transformed into someone a third of his age with the addition of a uniform.
Okay…It wasn’t a flawless transformation, so we decided to go after dusk to give him the cover of darkness as well. Anyone with mild corneal damage wearing sunglasses about 100 yards away would swear that Mr. Sato was a skateboarding, hula-hooping teen.
▼ Mr. Sato: “Premature grey hair is too a thing. Look it up!”
Mr. Sato felt a strange thrill that he hadn’t felt in decades, although the situation was reversed the sensation took him right back to his teens trying to buy cigarettes by pretending to look older. His heart began to race and beads of sweat formed on his brow as he approached the counter.
Mr. Sato: “I-iQUOS smooth… um, re-regular please.”
Clerk: “Just one then sir?”
Mr. Sato: “Uh, yeah one.”
The clerk then went to get the pack and returned to the counter. However, the young man suddenly began to take notice of Mr. Sato’s clothes and began scanning him up and down with his eyes.
Our reporter could feel the sharp burn of the store clerk’s gaze and the hairs on the back of his neck began to stand up. He thought surely the cashier was onto him and also seemed to be gradually forgetting that he was actually a 43-year-old man simply posing as a teen.
Clerk: “Please, touch the screen.”
As with everyone buying tobacco or alcohol, Mr. Sato had to touch a virtual button on the register screen which indicates that he promises he is legally old enough to do so. It’s standard procedure for all customers regardless of their age.
At this point Mr. Sato had somehow brainwashed himself into thinking he was a high school student again and emerged from the store confused but excited that he could “totally score some smokes.”
And so, like so many of our experiments in the past, the results are inconclusive because we forgot what we were doing partway through.
On one hand, Mr. Sato was able to look past his own grey hair, wrinkles, husky voice, stained teeth that come from decades of smoking, beard, and convoluted “heat-not-burn” tobacco product of choice to think he was a youth…so why not the clerk too?
On the other hand, it probably would have been better to have gone to a store other than the one just outside the office that he goes to everyday. Ah well, live and learn…
Anyway, don’t worry about Mr. Sato’s mental state, we’ll just have to deprogram him like the time he thought he was Donald Trump, David Bowie, a mascot, a gyaru, a Pikachu, T.M. Revolution, a villain from Fist of the North Star… Eh, you get the idea.
[ Read in Japanese ]