Anti-Smoking Warnings Sour Cigarettes’ Taste, Study Says

Anti-smoking warning labels, featuring graphic images, have been found to make cigarettes taste bad. At least, that’s what a new study has found after discovering a growing trend in Australia.

Last year Australia became the latest nation to implement laws requiring graphic disclaimers be on all cigarettes sold. The images depict the unpleasant results of long-term smoking, some showing mouth ulcers and cancerous lungs, among other things.

Cigarette manufacturers have not changed their formula for their products since the new laws came into place. Yet long-time smokers have been lodging complaints, insisting that their favorite cigarettes don’t taste as good as they once did, reports GMA Network.

It has only been seven months since some of the world’s strictest tobacco warning label laws in Australia, so it is still unclear whether Australians’ smoking has declined. But the laws are certainly having an effect of some kind.

Such graphic anti-smoking warnings are not new, but this is the first time a study has shown a trend linking the labels with flavor.

Why does this happen? Discovery News explains that this is the result of an interesting subconscious phenomenon. In psychology it is referred to as “priming.” Priming is simply creating a particular expectation which alters a person’s perception.

This has been documented a variety of times. Blind taste tests, in particular, illustrate the power of priming. One test pitted tap water against expensive, premium bottled water. In reality, both were identical samples of tap water, but the participants almost always found the pricey bottled water to taste better.

Another blind taste test had participants judge cheap wine against cheap wine poured from an expensive bottle. Big surprise, the vast majority said the $80 bottle of wine tasted better.

By being told about the wine, water, or, in this study, cigarettes, before experiencing them, subconscious changes can alter the way people sense. Contrary to popular belief, human sense can frequently be a subjective experience.

This is being proven in the the instance of Australia’s new laws; if it is shown that graphic anti-smoking warnings reduced tobacco use or curbs it altogether, there may be other health implications.

What do you think? Would seeing a picture of an obese diabetic on every double quarter pounder, for example, turn people off eating fast food?

[Image via cszar via photopin cc]