Joint venture formed to advance e-cigarette security

A three-way alliance between Ispire Technology, Berify and Chemular International has been set up to develop a blockchain-based system to make sure e-cigarettes are used by people of appropriate age, and also guard against counterfeiting.

The consortium brings together Ispire’s vape hardware development with Berify’s technology to give physical objects a digital identity and Chemular’s regulatory expertise with the aim of providing “industry standard” age verification and age-gating for nicotine vapour devices and premarket tobacco applications (PMTA) applications.

The partners want to use blockchain and biometric identification to “redesign product authentication, consumer engagement, user identification and access control” in the vape sector, according to Ispire’s co-chief executive Michael Wang. It will be applied to both nicotine and cannabis products, he told analysts on a conference call.

One e-cigarette company, Juul, has already filed for approval in the US to sell a next-generation vape with age verification technology based on a phone app that allows third-party identity verification, hoping to overcome a ban on sales of its products introduced by the FDA last year, which is being appealed.

The legal age to purchase e-cigarettes in the US is 21, and Juul has been taken to task for not doing enough to prevent sales of its products to underage people. Last year, it agreed to pay $462m to various US states and Washington DC to resolve claims it promoted its vapes directly to underage students.

Building in age-verification technology could help manufacturers deal with regulatory crackdowns on vaping, which in the US have been driven in part by pressure from lawmakers who have helped introduce bans on flavoured vapes in several states.

Ispire, Berify and Chemular envisage vape hardware with point-of-use age-verification and geo-fencing to prevent the use of hardware in certain designated areas, such as schools, built in. They also want to include blockchain-supported authentication, direct-to-consumer (D2C) engagements and other security features to deter counterfeiting (see below).

“The US market is ripe for technological disruption that addresses age-verification, safety and counterfeit issues,” said Berify founder and CEO Dan Kang. “Our mission is also to create smart products that generate a new level of consumer satisfaction.”

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