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Cigarette Boxes with Graphic Images do not Deter Smokers, Study Finds

Update Date: Feb 24, 2016 10:38 AM EST

Smokers will continue to buy cigarettes regardless of whether or not there is a graphic image on the box, a new study said.

For this study, the researchers at the University of Illinois set out to analyze the effects of using graphic warning labels with images on smokers and non-smokers. They recruited 435 undergraduates who were between the ages of 18 and 25. 17.5 percent were smokers, about 66 percent were females and 62.3 percent were white.

Each participant was given one cigarette box that either had one of the seven graphic images or a text-only warning label. The graphic images, which included diseased lungs or a corpse, had all been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). All of the participants were required to fill out a questionnaire that assessed their personality and asked them about their opinions regarding the label.

The researchers found that regardless of one's smoking status, the graphic labels were huge turnoffs because many of the participants viewed them as a threat to their independence. The team added that participants who measured high on psychological reactance were the ones who had the strongest negative reaction.

"What we found is that most people don't like these warning labels, whether they are smokers or nonsmokers," said doctoral student and the study's lead author, Nicole LaVoie, reported by the press release. "It makes them angry, it makes them express negative thoughts about the packaging, that they're being manipulated. Ultimately, it also makes them think that the source - the government in this case, mandating these labels - is being overly domineering, is being too much in their business."

The researchers concluded that even though lawmakers might have the right idea in mind, sometimes their policies, such as graphic images in this case, are not effective.

"The good intentions of this tobacco control measure may be for naught," the authors wrote.

The study was published in the journal, Communication Research.

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