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Can Tobacco Warnings Kill Through Placebo?

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posted on Sep, 10 2007 @ 03:38 PM
Or at least: “Seriously Damage You’re Health”

The power of placebo is a well known fact in medicine .Give someone terminally ill with cancer a prescription of e.g. chalk tablets and the chances of the patient surviving dramatically increase. The power of placebo is further boosted if the doctor is positive about the outlook for the patient, and spends more time with them. It can be further boosted by factors such as the colour of placebo pills

It is now a measurable scientific fact that the power placebo is not all in a patients mind, but rather in their brain; actually changing how a brain deals with a sick body.

Placebo Causing Harm…
Most research into placebo focuses on its positive effects as this is easier to measure. But does tricking a patient into thinking something will cause them harm cause the “harmless” placebo to do just that?
I have read in BBC Focusmag about a 26 year old man who last year was rushed to hospital after taking an overdose on placebo antidepressants. He was slipping in and out of consciousness until a supervisor of the drugs trial was called in and realised the man was on placebo. The mans blood pressure then returned to normal in 15 minutes. Unfortunately I can’t find the article as my computer doesn’t interact with their website too well. So I’ll have to make do with this instead…

External Source:

Specifically, the 30-day mortality rate for those who received a t-PA overdose was 9.8 percent, and 19.5 percent for those receiving an underdose. Those receiving a correct dose had a mortality rate of 5.4 percent. Conversely, those who received an overdose of placebo had a 10 percent mortality rate, and 23.5 percent rate for underdose. Those who received the correct dose of placebo also had a 5.4 percent mortality rate.
(Underlining by me).

Interesting: So even though the drug appears as dangerous as a placebo (when taken properly) a placebo can be as dangerous as the drug taken improperly!!! Wow

So Do Tobacco Warnings Have A Placebo Effect?
When they write on every packet of tobacco things like: “Smokers die younger” “This product will kill you” “You’re infertile now” and “You’ll go blind **** head”
Don’t you think this negative campaigning, especially since it’s done in the form of authoritative warnings, will have its own placebo effect? This is serious stuff given a overdose on a dummy antidepressant can send at least one man in and out of consciousness.

If there is an effect how effective might it be?
Placebo medicines work best when…
1. The patient believes the placebo will work
2. When lot’s of time is spent between the patient and authoritative information source (i.e. doctor)
3. When the colour scheme-delivery of the placebo is most effective.

Tobacco warnings share…
1. The user believes the warning to be true. After all the messages are undisputed scientific fact, which some great boffins have worked out.
2. The Tobacco warning spends plenty of time with its user. So much so that after a while tobacco smokers grow semi “blind” to the same warnings. This is why some anti-tobacco health fascists had the “great” idea of printing numerous health warnings; thereby ensuring the smoker is bombarded by a cocktail of information their mind is less likely to black out.
3. The colour scheme of the warnings is most effective. It’s large, bold, black ink against a white background. Given that black is sort of toxicity associated colour, and white shows black up, I would say the health fanatics could hardly have done a better job.

What do you think ATS? How many lives a year could be ruined by well meaning government health warnings?
I feel so strongly about this, and having my own (otherwise attractive) tobacco packets vandalised by government graffiti (the same government that toppled many of our own boys lives in Iraq which really makes me feel sick) that I’ll be writing to British American Tobacco (or some other tobacco producers) when this thread is done.

Given the way they were able to come up with semi-scientific research that smoking might not cause cancer up till the early 19990’s, I could think of no one better to conduct research, and to lobby the government to conduct its own research (or otherwise allow the government to face unlimited liabilities running into many billions of dollars for needlessly making smoking more hazardous).

[edit on 090705 by Liberal1984]

posted on Sep, 10 2007 @ 04:18 PM
would be interesting to be able to make a comparative between the verbal and the visual types of tobacco-warnings.

For instance UK tobacco packaging is verbal only, like this typical example:

Whereas Australian packaging shows graphic medical-textbook images like these:

posted on Sep, 10 2007 @ 04:43 PM
It seems you have a very interesting point here.

As far as you showed here, placebo works, so does advertising, if you connect the two it can become very powerfull.

I have been trying to think of answers about this deadly labeling of tobacco and so far i could not think of a plausible theory of my own.

This one seems to be at least interesting and i can imagine why you feel so strongly about this subject.
You could be right.

posted on Sep, 10 2007 @ 04:52 PM
Great post.

This sounds very plausible to me. I think placebos are powerful.

There are also plans to introduce pictures in the UK instead of written warnings. Will this make it even more effective? Maybe a more specific effect? Is this so that the iliterate ones can understand too?

Cigarette pictures too far?

The government is to announce new rules for graphic pictures to be displayed on cigarette packets.

The story was even shown on childrens part of the BBC website! Will nasty pics stop people smoking?

And the EU EU gets graphic in anti-smoking battle

Have they always had warnings on or is it a new thing?

posted on Sep, 10 2007 @ 04:59 PM
Just a thought - how would it affect a non-smoker? The words (and images) are very clear and to the point.

It might have a greater effect on a non-smoker because it is confirming their beliefs and they would not be blinded by the constant exposure to the words.

posted on Sep, 10 2007 @ 07:08 PM
Thanks for the thoughts and support guys.
jaamaan You’re connection between placebo and advertising is very thought provoking; specifically on one type of advertising…
Subliminal Advertising:

One type Subliminal Layering involves: Inserting a picture in a film and then playing it. E.g. one could have a giant bottle of coke, standing behind a lake of water, in a sandy desert. As there are about 24 pictures in every second of film you’re conscious is never aware of seeing the image. However you’re subconscious is, and influences the probability of consciously choosing to buy the product.

Tried by Coke in 1950’s cinema sales “rocketed” according to this source…
This link refers to its pioneer James Vicary who in 1957 during a 6 week experiment inserted the words: “Drink coke” and “Eat Popcorn” during films. According to the link the research was flawed, however I remember reading elsewhere that sales were increased 57% compared with before; I don’t know what the alleged exaggeration was.

However subliminal messaging-layering appears to work and that is why it was once popular with the advertising industry until commercial advertising got banned in Australia, Britain, and America. However I believe they still use it in some films, and music bands sometimes add noises that make messages when played backwards, or slowed down or up.

Back to Tobacco…
I thought one way I could avoid the tobacco placebo is to have a tobacco tin. I daren’t take it to work but I have a solid gold one (I never use a reactive metal like aluminium as burning metal contaminated tobacco will create cancerous dioxins).

However obviously there is a connection between subliminal advertising and the poisonous messages on tobacco products; you can get so used to reading, that you sort of blank it out (whatever the message in that white space says).
Therefore my tobacco tin plan may be dented simply by seeing the government messages (regardless of whether I read them).

So I have a solution to compensate: A tobacco tin with …
1. Smoking is good for you.
2. Smoking Cures Lung Cancer
3. Smoking Helps You See Better In the Dark (it does, since it makes light!)
4. Smoking Attracts Women (well some women)
5. All Men Are Infertile Until They Have A Girl (also true).

I just feel sorry for fellow smokers who (in ignorance) are being needlessly poisoned by government propaganda (or the mechanisms of subliminal messaging). Also just because I’ve found a personal solution, doesn’t mean my health is unaffected by what the government has said: I.e. I should have my ideal tobacco tin, and a tobacco packet free of toxic messages (unless I should chose to buy them over the others).

posted on Sep, 11 2007 @ 06:07 AM

Another factor you should consider with the 'tobacco placebo' is the behavioral characteristics of the smokers themselves.

Smokers must be at some level, 'easily led/persuaded' people, else how would they go to the effort (and nausea) of developing a smoking habit. I'd also go as far to say that a fair proportion of smokers are 'anxious-types' that easily form habitual pattern behaviours.

The more anxious you feel, the more likely you are to resort to a habitual-pattern (such as smoking) as a support....and these perrsonality-types are more likely to succumb to suggestions confirming their worst fears (visual/verbal warningsof cancer, emphycema, etc) yet the least likely to be able to break their habitual pattern of smoking

posted on Sep, 11 2007 @ 07:37 AM
I think the problem here is that people world wide seem to have been infected with a variant of the Jessica Simpson Virus:

But, even Jessica has a simple solution to the cigarette pack warnings

posted on Sep, 11 2007 @ 07:56 AM
Great thread. I think you might be onto something. Been struggling with the fags for a long time and often think I'm "thinking myself to death" every time I read the packet.

posted on Sep, 11 2007 @ 08:44 AM
What would be the outcome if positive-reinforcement labels were introduced instead of the negative-reinforcing 'smoking kills' straplines?

Perhaps graphic labels could show the amount of money annually spent by the average 20-a-day smoker? Or even a graphic of a gorgeous girl/guy as aspirational non-smokers?

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