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Smokers' brains don't read negative aspects of smoking

Posted on Mar 11 2014 | IANS

Toronto, March 11 : How much helpful are the repulsive images on cigarettes' packets in discouraging smokers from lighting up? Not much perhaps, claims research.

The use of a product influences our perception of it, making us even more susceptible to its positive aspects and altering our understanding of its drawbacks, according to a recent study by the Institut universitaire en sante mentale de Montreal and Universite de Montreal in Canada.

This is precisely what happens with cigarettes in chronic smokers.

The study showed that chronic smokers have altered emotional reactions when they are exposed to negative and positive images associated with tobacco.

"We observed a bias depending on how smoking is portrayed," said Le-Anh Dinh-Williams, the study's first author.

Using neuro-imaging techniques, the researchers compared the emotional reactions of 30 smokers as they looked at repulsive smoking-related images compared to other aversive images as well as appetitive smoking-related images.

The brains of the smokers in our study were more aroused by images that showed smoking in a positive light than by images that encouraged them to stop, he added.

They were also more affected by aversive non-smoking related images than by images of the specific negative consequences of smoking.

The number of smokers in India has gone up to 110 million from 74.5 million over the last three decades despite all the anti-smoking campaigns and smoke-free laws.

Smoking is known as the third biggest health risk for Indians.

"We wanted to understand why knowing about the negative health impacts of tobacco does not prevent smokers from lighting up," said Dinh-Williams.

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