Published in the Psychological Science journal, the experiment, conducted by experts from Tel Aviv University, New York University, and INSEAD Business School, reports that tobacco warning labels that read such things as "Smokers Die Early" actually promote cigarette buying instead of deterring it.
The somewhat twisted rationale goes: Consumers feel the cig makers' honesty "increases the message recipient’s sense of knowledge and confidence about the product."
Indeed, when researchers showed 75 study participants anti-smoking ads with harsh health warnings, including increased chances of cancer and disease, and another 75 a cleaner version with less threatening messages, the results were eerily backwards. Immediately after, the viewers of the harsh ads were less likely to buy the product, but days later, they were the ones to buy more cigarettes than the viewers of the clean ads. The journal explains: "As time separates the message from the behavior of which it warns, the prominence of side effects is attenuated, and the trustworthiness of the ad rises."
"Trustworthiness" is a tricky word when it comes to big tobacco though, and the study could definitely use some more rounds of testing. We're just not volunteering for this mind/body game any time soon. (Fast Co Exist)