Negative images of smoking have little impact on addicts' brains

Showing smokers images which portray the negative impacts of their habits could do little to persuade them to give up, new research reveals.

According to, researchers from the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal and Université de Montréal have found that positive and negative images related to tobacco result in different emotional reactions in chronic smokers. Essentially, smokers tend to feel aroused when they see positive images of smoking, but don't feel the same when they see negative images.

The researchers also discovered that smokers reacted more strongly to negative images which have nothing to do with smoking, such as an old man near death, in comparison to specific anti-smoking pictures, like the ones found on cigarette packets.

Stéphane Potvin, a co-author of the study, explains the part of the brain associated with motivation becomes more active when chronic smokers see positive images of smoking.

"Many factors make it difficult for people to quit," he states. "Part of the explanation could certainly be because cigarettes 'trick' the brains of smokers."

The European Parliament recently voted to increase the number of smoking warnings found on tobacco products, meaning 65 per cent of cigarette packets will be covered in anti-smoking images, reports However, this study might show that such images are unlikely to help smokers kick their habit.