Graphic photos that show tumors and diseases caused by smoking cigarettes might lead to adolescents taking up the habit, a new research stated.

The research was conducted by RAND Health Corporation, an American non-profit global policy think tank, which put questioned the effectiveness of anti-smoking advertisements when it came to preventing teens from taking up smoking.

William G. Shadel, senior behavioral scientist and associate director of the Population Health Program at RAND and the author of the research said, with regards to the credibility of anti-smoking, “We actually expected that the display of graphic anti-smoking posters in the retail environment would reduce smoking intentions among all teenagers,” according to a report by Fatherly, a parenting information website.

He added, “When we dug into the data and started to analyze it, what we found out was that wasn’t true.”

The report said RAND researchers built a convenience store that was simulated to represent an outlet, with a wall of cigarettes, where teens go to buy the smokes. A total of 441 kids ranging from ages 11-17 were asked to shop from the store in order to survey their smoking risk. A poster with a graphic picture featuring a tobacco-diseased mouth with the words “Smoking Causes Cancer” was also shown to the buyers. The poster was placed either at the register, near the cigarette wall, at both the places or not displayed at all. After the buyers purchased the products, they were asked some questions which included their future chances of smoking a cigarette.

Shadel said, “We were extremely surprised by the result. … For the kids who were at risk of future smoking, shopping in the store with the display of the graphic warning heightened the future risk of smoking.”

This was an indication the anti-smoking pictures resulted in an increased interest to smoke among the kids who were ranked “high-risk.”

The report stated the kids who were at a high risk were the ones who tried smoking in the past. The kids who were at a low risk were the ones who never tried smoking and also didn’t show any interest in taking up the habit, regardless of the anti-smoking pictures.

“We were really scratching our heads when the finding had come up in terms of looking for an explanation,” the behavioral scientist said.

However, the researchers then came to a hypothesis that the above was connected to a probability that teens disobey messages which seem to challenge them.

Shadel stated, “If someone’s trying to communicate a message to you, and that message is threatening somehow to your self-esteem, your self-worth or your conception of yourself, you react in a way that is opposite to the intention of the message.”

The report added parents would see this reason as a strong possibility.

Shadel said this rebellious nature was visible in his own son. Measuring amount of teenage rebellion will be a pivotal feature in future researches, he added.

“If we had had the hypothesis going in that we’d find these results, we may have, in hindsight, collected information on their level of risk-taking or rebelliousness,” Shadel said.

He stressed this research can result in massive ramifications on the use of images for public health in other areas such as drugs and texting while driving. He suggested parents should take control and establish effective communication about the hazards of smoking with their children before they visit a convenience store.

The research was published in the journal called Nicotine & Tobacco Research.