A new study has found that graphic warning labels on cigarettes have little to no impact on smokers. Researchers found that the imagery angers smokers instead of persuading them to quit smoking. The study also found that non-smokers hate the warning labels as much as smokers do.
A group of researchers at the University of Illinois planned to learn whether the tobacco control measure has some real life impact. The team found that it does have an impact, but a rather negative one.
Most smokers said that the graphic pics make them angry because they feel like being manipulated. Plus, they sense that the government may be interfering too much with their lives and lifestyle choices.
This may be why a large group of smokers see the labels as a threat to their freedom, so they have a strong response to them. Moreover, study participants with a psychological reactance, i.e. people who have a strong response to people, events, situations that seem to limit their personal freedom, hated the labels the most. They said that they do not like to be told what to do.
Brian Quick, co-author of the study, explained that these people have a strong reaction against anything that seems to threaten their personal freedom. So, they usually do just the opposite of what they are being told not to do.
Researchers noted that smokers are a usually group characterized by psychological reactance, so the graphic warning labels may do more harm than good to people that already know they have an addiction problem.
The study involved 435 participants with the average age of 21.5, of which 17.5 percent of volunteers were active smokers while the rest were non-smokers or former smokers who hadn’t had a cigarette within a month before the study. Two-thirds were women, and more than 60 percent were white.
Study participants were asked to look at the graphic warning labels on cigarette packaging and answer a series of questions from a questionnaire designed to both measure their reaction to the imagery and the level of psychological reactance.
Half of participants were given packages with graphic images, while half were given text warning labels. All photos had been approved by the U.S. the Food and Drug Administration. Some of them depicted damaged lungs, rotten teeth, lung cancer or cardiovascular disease patients, and even a cadaver.
Researchers acknowledged that smoking rates dropped after the implementation of graphic imagery on cigarette packaging, but that may have something to do more with smoking bans and higher taxes than with the tobacco control measure.
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