"What we found is that most people don't like these warning labels, whether they are smokers or nonsmokers," said lead author Nicole LaVoie, doctoral student at University of Illinois.

"It makes them angry, it makes them express negative thoughts about the packaging, that they're being manipulated," LaVoie said.

The strongest response of this kind came from participants who measured high in psychological reactance, a personality trait that makes them more prone to negative and resistant thoughts when they perceive they are being told what to do, she said.

In some cases, this trait can produce something close to a boomerang effect, according to Brian Quick, a professor at University of Illinois.

Numerous studies in other countries have shown smoking decreasing after the implementation of graphic warning labels, LaVoie said, but in many cases the new labels coincided with other tobacco control measures such as tax increases and smoking bans.

The study was published in the journal Communication Research.

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