Campaigners have accused the Government and officials of misleading businesses over the effectiveness of new national ID cards for avoiding underage sales in pubs.
The cards, which will cost £30 but are not compulsory, are being trialed in Manchester this autumn before a national roll-out 2011/2012.
The group NO2ID said pubs and shops won't have the machines to read fingerprints on the cards that prove ownership.
NO2ID pointed to guidance from the Home Office, which says people won't always be able to check all the security features on a card. "For example, if you're checking ID in a pub or club, it might be too dark to see the colour-changing sections. But you can still make sure the card has raised information on the front - just by touching it."
The campaign group also pointed out that the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) is not issuing application forms yet, while PASS cards are common-place.
NO2ID accused IPS chief James Hall of running a "charm offensive in the trade press, attempting to undermine existing well established proof of age schemes and talk up the inclusion of biometrics".
NO2ID national co-ordinator Phil Booth said: "This latest, desperate attempt to market the ID scheme is patronising hype.
"Having failed to come up with any convincing benefits, officials are set to waste millions shoving ID cards down the throats of shops, of licensees, and of young people who already have alternatives.
"Let us be clear: anyone signing up for a Home Office 'identity card' has agreed to report to an official database for life, and has lost control of their own identity information for ever. It is nothing to smile about."
Earlier this month Hall told the MA he expects the cards will eventually replace other forms of ID used to buy alcohol in pubs.
A Home Office spokesperson said today: "Identity cards will provide an effective and convenient way for individuals to prove their identity. They will be just as secure as passports, but cheaper and wallet-sized. Because of this we anticipate that they will be popular with young people who need to prove their age on a night out.
"Identity cards can be used as proof of age in the same way that passports are currently - inside pubs and by door staff at nightclubs.
"Our guidance makes clear that as well as the photograph and date of birth printed on the front, the cards have a tactile element that is extremely difficult to forge.
"This additional check will allow staff to have even more confidence that the ID card they are presented with is genuine."