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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 19-Mar-10

 


Friday 19-March-10

Do smoking warnings work?

Do you smoke, or know a smoker? If so, do the 'you're gonna die!' ever-scarier messages that get printed in ever-larger letters make any real difference?

In fact these could make things worse. Just reading the message about smoking triggers thoughts of smoking in the short term, whilst longer-term death thoughts are discounted (such that their present-day impact seems much smaller) or otherwise ignored (we often cope with scary stuff by pretending that it is not there).

Researcher Jochim Hansen and colleagues tested for a connection between smoking and self esteem, then exposed student smokers to death-related messages or to relatively neutral messages. Those who saw the death messages and for whom smoking was positively related to their self-esteem actually reported an increase in desire to smoke. However those who did not link smoking to self esteem did not want to smoke more.

The bottom line is that alarming messages are not an easy solution. People are complex and addiction has strange effects on how we think.

Reference:
Hansen, J., Winzeler, S., & Topolinski, S. (2010). When the death makes you
smoke: A terror management perspective on the effectiveness of cigarette
on-pack warnings. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46 (1), 226-228


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