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There just might be something about those graphic anti-smoking warnings: some smokers who see the health warnings find the cigarettes don't taste as good as before the warnings were printed on the package.
Discovery News said it could be a psychological illusion, as the tobacco companies not changing the formulation of their products.
"It’s a psychological and perceptual illusion created by combining unpleasant images with pleasant cigarette taste. The influences happens because of what in psychology is called priming: creating an expectation that influences a person’s response to some stimuli," it said.
Discovery News cited a New York Times report indicating smokers in Australia had complained cigarettes no longer taste as good, after Australia imposed tough laws on tobacco warning labels.
Under Australia's laws, iconic packaging was swapped for graphic images of the health risks of smoking, such as mouth ulcers and cancerous lungs.
"Scary health warnings are not new, but what’s interesting about the consumers’ complaints is that the tobacco and cigarette formulation did not change. The cigarettes that tasted good before the warnings now don’t taste as good, and the only thing that changed is the packaging. Can the exact same thing taste better or worse depending on its wrapping? Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is yes," Discovery News said.
Wine and water
Also, Discovery News cited blind-taste studies showing similar effects for wines and water.
Identical wines taste better when they come from expensive bottles, and tap water poured from an expensive bottle is perceived to taste better than water from the faucet.
"These influences are often subconscious; people aren’t aware that the $80 price tag on a bottle is making the wine inside taste better, and don’t realize that the photograph of the diseased lung on the cigarette packaging is making their cigarettes taste worse. But tobacco companies know it, and that’s one reason why they have fought against graphic warnings on their products," Discovery News said.
Discovery News also said this effect can also be found in subtle ways in other contexts.
On the other hand, it said the effect of priming may not necessarily work on everyone.
"Not everyone who sees the graphic images on cigarette packs will find the tobacco tastes off, and many people who have heard good things about a movie or restaurant go with high expectations only to be disappointed. But images can and do influence us in ways we’re not aware of," it said. — TJD, GMA News