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According to the Boston Globe the Massachusetts State prepares to become the first state in the US to pass legislation that obliges retailers to display graphic warnings against smoking:

Images of ominously darkened lungs, damaged brains, and diseased teeth could start appearing before the end of the year in more than 9,000 convenience stores, pharmacies, and gas stations, if a proposal by the state Department of Public Health is approved as expected. Other posters would direct smokers to where they can get help to stamp out their habit.

The idea behind this law is straightforward: showing people what tobacco can do to them in the long run will deter them from smoking. As the saying goes “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions”. Martin Lindstrom reports in his book Buyology that warning signs in cigarettes packages not only don’t stop people from smoking, but also can lead people to smoke even more. In a study using fMRI, Lindstrom and the team of neuroscientists working with him discovered that warning labels activated the nucleus accumbens, an area of our brain linked with craving.

While the Massachusetts proposal is highly commendable in its aim, it seems that it’s going for the wrong tactics to try to tackle smoking.

Hat Tip: Nudge blog.

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