Quit-Smoking Diet: Veggies, Milk
Some Foods Make Cigarettes Taste Terrible; Others Boost Tobacco Taste
WebMD News Archive
April 5, 2007 -- Getting ready to quit smoking? Try eating more vegetables
and less meat -- and swap that coffee for a glass of milk.
A Duke University study shows that fruits, vegetables, and dairy foods make
cigarettes taste terrible. But meat, coffee, and alcoholic beverages make
smoking much tastier, find Duke University psychologist F. Joseph McClernon,
PhD, and colleagues.
"The conventional wisdom is that cigarette addiction is all about the
nicotine," McClernon tells WebMD. "But we are learning more and more it
is also about sensory effects like the taste and the smell and the visual
experience and the habitual routines of smoking. The taste effects are
McClernon, a researcher at the Duke center for nicotine and smoking
research, kept hearing smokers say that certain foods and beverages made their
cigarettes taste much better. He began to wonder exactly which foods these were
-- and whether any foods made smoking a worse experience.
To study the issue, he asked 209 smokers to list foods that worsened or
enhanced the smoking experience. The smokers averaged a little better than a
pack of cigarettes a day for an average 21 years. About half were women, a
fourth were black, two-thirds were white, and nearly all of them were
high-school or college graduates.
Nearly 70% of the smokers said some foods made their cigarettes taste
better. These foods tended to be caffeinated beverages, alcoholic beverages,
Surprisingly, just under half of the smokers -- 45% -- said some foods made
their cigarettes taste worse. These foods tended to be fruits and vegetables,
noncaffeinated beverages such as water and juice, dairy beverages, and dairy
"We were surprised that smokers would say anything would make their
cigarettes taste worse," McClernon says.
Black Smokers at Greater Risk
Another surprise: Menthol-cigarette smokers were very likely to say that
their cigarettes tasted the same no matter what kind of foods and beverages
they consumed. Nearly 90% of the black study participants smoked menthol
This means that black smokers may have a particularly hard time quitting
cigarettes, suggests Scott McIntosh, PhD, associate professor of medicine at
the University of Rochester in New York and director of the greater Rochester
area tobacco cessation center.
McIntosh says most experts think the reason why black Americans are more
likely to smoke menthol cigarettes is because they were targeted to do so by
tobacco-company ads, McIntosh tells WebMD. "But this study suggests that
menthol lessens the effect of taste deadening or enhancing. And you are more
likely to be addicted if you are not affected by variations in taste and
McClernon and McIntosh note that counselors tell people who quit smoking to
drink lots of water and to eat carrots and celery sticks.
"The idea is to get the smoker to do something with the hands and mouth
that is not smoking -- but it might actually be good to engage in some of these
behaviors before quitting, to alter the taste," McClernon says.
"We might ask clinicians to ask patients getting ready to quit to start
consuming healthy dairy products also to see if they can alter their smoking
behavior that way."