Cigarette Smoking Dulls Taste

Smoking May Affect the Shape of Taste Buds and Impair Sense of Taste, Study Says

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on August 21, 2009
From the WebMD Archives

Aug. 21, 2009 -- Cigarette smoking not only causes cancer and cardiovascular disease, it also dulls taste, making food less palatable, a new study suggests.

Scientists in Greece enlisted 62 young men of the country’s military forces, about half of whom were smokers, to test for taste sensitivity and to measure the number and shape of taste buds. The average age of the men was 25.

The taste buds on smokers’ tongues were found to be flatter than the buds on the tongues of the nonsmokers, the researchers say. There was no difference in the numbers of taste buds between the two groups.

“Statistically important differences between the taste thresholds of smokers and nonsmokers were detected,” Pavlidis Pavlos, leader of a team of researchers from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, says in a news release. However, a few of the smokers perceived taste similarly to nonsmokers, and researchers say more study is needed to explain why.

Smoking can affect the shape of taste buds and also affect vascularization, or the formation of blood vessels, he says.

“Nicotine may cause functional and morphological alterations” of taste buds "without severely affecting their number," Pavlos and colleagues write.

Smoking is an important factor which can lead to decreased taste sensitivity,” the authors conclude.

The study is published in the journal BMC Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders.