New York: The graphic images like cancerous lungs and lips may not deter smokers to quit smoking, rather for many of them these images are perceived as a threat to their freedom, choice or autonomy, finds a study.
According to a University of Illinois study “the good intentions of this tobacco control measure may be for naught”.
“What we found is that most people don’t like these warning labels, whether they are smokers or non-smokers,” said lead author of the study, Nicole LaVoie, in the paper published in the journal Communication Research.
“It makes them angry, it makes them express negative thoughts about the packaging that they’re being manipulated,” LaVoie added.
The participants in the study were 435 undergraduates between the ages of 18 and 25, with a median age of 20.
All participants were given a cigarette package, along with a questionnaire designed to measure certain personality traits, as well as their reaction to the package.
Half of the smokers and half of the non-smokers were given packages with graphic warning labels and the other half were given packages with a text-only label like the one now in use.
Also, many smokers simply buy and use slip covers that go over the package, she said. They can avoid the images, regain a sense of control and continue to smoke.
Since smokers tend to be somewhat higher in this trait, LaVoie said: “We might actually be doing harm to a group that might need the most help if they’re battling an addiction to smoking.”
“We always measure and look at the intended effects, like encouraging people to quit smoking, but sometimes we don’t remember to look at what else these messages are doing that we’re not thinking about, like causing reactance,” LaVoie said.
“If these individuals see things as freedom threats, they are going to be more attracted to perform the threatened behaviour,” said co-researcher Brian Quick.