Oct 13, 2011

Cigarette warnings

An article excerpt written by Natalie Wolchover, Life's Little Mysteries -"Pink May Repel Women from Breast Cancer Awareness"

Cigarette warnings
According to some experts, the findings may have major implications for other kinds of health warnings. For example, starting next year, the Food and Drug Administration will require cigarette makers to include graphic images on cigarette packaging, including diseased lungs or a man blowing smoke from the tracheotomy hole in his throat, but these warning labels may be counterproductive.
"The use of these images and stronger label language is intended to help curb smoking. Yet [a brain scan study] has shown that the more graphic the cigarette package warning, the more activity is seen in the part of the brain that induces smoking," Chris Bevolo, the author of two books on health care marketing, wrote in a response to Puntoni's findings on his website. "In other words, perversely, the harsher the warning, the more people want to smoke. Perhaps the same psychological 'denial' mechanism is at work here."
In short, these horrifying images try to make smokers identify with the possibility of getting lung cancer. Instead, they may trigger a denial mechanism that makes smokers feel less likely to get cancer — and thus more free to smoke. "I can imagine that graphic tobacco warnings may trigger defensive responses in smokers, similar to the effects in our studies, especially among heavy smokers, or people who see smoking as an important part of who they are," Puntoni said.
The human brain is a complex entity, and simple formulas in ad campaigns don't always manipulate it in the desired way. Puntoni suggests that empowering women and making them feel good about themselves may be better ways of raising breast cancer awareness than gender cues: "The emphasis on achievement and community might be a good way to avoid defensive responses ... because they might help women feel strong and good. In our studies, we found that making women feel good about themselves builds a buffer that allows them to cope with the threat posed by breast cancer without triggering defensive denial."

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