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Scanner can help stores verify age of e-cig buyers

Published March 24, 2014 4:02 pm

Tech • Utah-made device is designed to instantly check a driver license.
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Kids hoping to use a fake ID to buy electronic cigarettes in Utah better brush up on their counterfeiting skills — some retailers will start using barcode scanners to verify a customer's age.

The Utah Vapers Association, which represents 30 specialty stores that sell e-cigarettes, has been working with Draper-based scanner manufacturer, Code Corp., to come up with a handheld scanner that can instantly verify a person's age by scanning the barcode on their driver license. It's the same company and technology used at state liquor stores, said Aaron Frazier, director of Utah Vapers.

"It's a protective measure to take the human-mistake factor out of reading an ID," he said. "Throughout the state of Utah, there is a growing problem in kids obtaining not only e-cigarettes but all tobacco products. We want to be part of the solution in combating that."

The $550 scanner, which can be wireless or wired to a base, simply flashes a green or red light to tell the retailer if the card is legitimate and if the owner of the license is of legal age. The legal age in Utah for smoking tobacco or e-cigarettes is 19 while the federal age limit is 18.

Frazier said one Murray store, iVape, has been testing the scanner since Friday.

"We're running it as a pilot for two or three weeks to make sure we work all of the bugs out of it," he said. "Then we'll start requiring that all of our member retailers use this unit or some other form of electronic verification."

Grant Hiller, owner of iVape at 6546 S. State St., said he likes the convenience of the scanner because his clerks don't have to make mistakes figuring out a customer's age.

"We don't have to do the math anymore," Hiller said. "It's very convenient and hassle-free and error-free."

Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered pen-like devices in which users breathe in water vapor laced with a liquid derived from tobacco. In a survey of Utah's youths, 1.9 percent of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders had tried e-cigs in 2011. By 2013, that number had risen to 5.9 percent while only 3.8 percent had smoked normal cigarettes.

Utah is one of 28 states that bars the sale of e-cigarettes to underage smokers. It is only one of three states, along with North Dakota and New Jersey, in which e-cigarettes can't be smoked indoors.


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