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Implementation of electronic locking devices for adolescents at German tobacco vending machines: Intended and unintended changes of supply and demand
  1. Sven Schneider1,
  2. Christiane A K Meyer1,
  3. Shelby Yamamoto2,
  4. Denise Solle3
  1. 1 Heidelberg University, MIPH Mannheim Institute of Public Health, Germany;
  2. 2 Mannheim Institute of Public Health, Germany;
  3. 3 Institute for Geography, Heidelberg University, Germany
  1. E-mail: sven.schneider{at}


Background: Starting on 01.01.2007, electronic locking devices based on proof-of-age (via electronic cash cards or a European driving licence) were installed in approximately 500,000 vending machines across Germany to restrict the purchase of cigarettes to those over the age of 16.

Objective: To examine changes in the number of tobacco vending machines before and after the introduction of these new measures.

Design: We recorded and mapped the total number of commercial tobacco sources in two selected districts (70,000 inhabitants) in Cologne. This major German city was the ideal setting for this study as we were able to use existing socio-geographical data from the area.

Setting and participants: We compiled a complete inventory in autumn 2005 and 2007. We also interviewed a total of 780 students aged 12 to 15 in the study areas.

Main outcome measure: Quantity and locations of commercial tobacco sources.

Results: Between 2005 and 2007 the total number of tobacco sources decreased from 315 to 277 within the study area. Although the most obvious reduction was detected in the number of outdoor vending machines (-48%), the number of indoor vending machines also decreased by 8%. Adolescents changed from vending machines to other sources for cigarettes, particularly kiosks or friends (+ 31%-points usage rate, p<0.001; +35%-points usage rate, p<0.001, respectively).

Conclusions: Although the number of tobacco vending machines decreased, this has not had a significant impact on cigarette acquisition by underage smokers as they were able to circumvent this new security measure in several different ways.

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