No Smoking Signs Just Make Smokers Want to Smoke More

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There's something to be said about being told specifically not to do something: It makes you kind of want to do it anyway, right? Translate this into a psychological study on the impact of no smoking signs and you have a conundrum: Telling smokers not to light up actually increases their cravings for nicotine. And what do you know, we find yet another failed attempt at getting New Yorkers to quit the habit.

Utilizing a "joystick test" to assess natural instincts and the test subject's willingness to embrace or avoid (in this case) various photos -- some of which had no smoking signs in the background -- researcher Brian Earp of Oxford reached the conclusion that the smokers were more drawn to the photos with no smoking signs than without. Earp believes this to be the natural result of being told not to do something, and perhaps even being reminded of the act of smoking itself.

Earp told the UK's Daily Mail, "No smoking signs in particular are everywhere. If you're a smoker walking down a street you're likely to pass five or six of these signs in windows or on doors. If you have a chronically positive attitude to smoking this could boost your craving."

Earp presented the study's results at the British Psychological Society's annual meeting in Glasgow on Friday. Follow-up research that has yet to be published indicates that Earp's findings may indeed be legitimate. Who needs a cigarette now?

[atimm@villagevoice.com]

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