Do meals really taste better after smoking? Tobacco’s effect on taste
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“When you stop smoking, meals suddenly become so delicious.”  People who quit smoking will often talk about its influence on meals.

How does smoking cessation affect taste?  Here we’ll introduce some of the food-related experiences ex-smokers have.


Quitting smoking changes your dining environment

smoking changes body odor too effects

Many of us have at least one friend who’s a smoker.  When they join in at the restaurant or pub, sometimes the lingering smoke on clothes turns others off or serves to distract from the food or ambiance.  Although it does not necessarily directly affect meal flavor, the presence of tobacco changes the social meal environment and can affect non-smokers.

There are also many restaurants at which we can not smoke these days, and smokers can be limited to a narrow range of smoking-friendly restaurants.  Even if there are places with smoking sections, reconciling the rift between non-smokers and smokers can be a challenge.

Once you quit smoking, choosing a restaurant becomes so much easier: rather than having to find a restaurant that allows smoking, you can select one based on taste and atmosphere.  When dining out with multiple people, there is much less to be concerned about.  One joy for ex-smokers is that since you aren’t as anxious about whether you might somehow be imposing smoke on friends, you may relax and enjoy meals more.


Re-enjoying scents and fragrances

coffee and cigarettes nicotine

Smells – both good and bad – surround us.  Our sense of smell is also very central to our ability to taste and enjoy different kinds of food.  When you quit smoking, it seems that the scents around you becomes clearly more apparent than before.  Doing a quick Internet search or asking ex-smokers reveals that this is a rather common phenomenon experienced by smokers during and after quitting.  Many opinions shared suggest, for instance, that the flavors of certain vegetables and fruits come to feel tasty after giving up smoking.

For smokers, coffee is often a beverage of choice and the combination of “coffee and cigarettes” can be very attractive.  After quitting smoking, however, many ex-smokers remark about being able to enjoy the fragrance of coffee beans and the subtle differences in how they are brewed.  Seems like a fitting trade-off.


Effects of smoking on taste buds

First of all, after stopping smoking, the taste of all dishes will not necessarily change.  Often, smokers’ tongues become more insensitive to certain tastes and flavors – narrowing the spectrum of tastes and aromas.  After quitting, this spectrum slowly returns.

In this sense, salty foods tend to taste saltier, and sweet ones sweeter.  Even if you drink the same juice, you may wonder whether “This juice was always so sweet?”  Smokers in many households also tend to use much more salt and seasoning than non-smokers.  After quitting, many opine that the taste of different dishes becomes somewhat thinner.

So why exactly does this happen?  It seems that scientists are still trying to figure this one out, though there are several hints.  It is said that as tar gradually falls out of the tongue after quitting smoking, differences and nuances in taste become more clearly felt.   A 2014 study on smoking found that certain taste perceptions (especially bitterness) are more affected by smoking than others.  It also suggested that accumulation of tobacco/smoke products in the body is at least partially responsible for affecting taste – and suggests that this impact may even be long-term.  And another study in Greece suggests that smoking can affect the shape of taste buds and also affect the formation of blood vessels, which may in turn alter the way flavors are perceived.


Final word

Even just by quitting smoking, large changes can occur with the eating environment and to taste.  Smoking is not always an easy habit, as it can frustrate many others around you.  Considering the many merits of quitting, it could be said that looking to stop smoking is a good personal challenge to accept.

There is also the notion that looking forward to seeing how tastes change may be added motivation to quit.  While quitting smoking, you will gradually feel what you eat becoming subtly more delicious.  If you can inscribe the excitement of “Eating is so much fun!” in your mind, you may never want to smoke again.


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