Many smokers unable to taste coffee bitterness

by | Apr 11, 2014 | Life

Karina Nowysz
Life Reporter

Can’t taste your coffee? Well, if you’re a smoker, you’re not alone.

It’s a well-known fact that smoking has a negative impact on health but according to a recent study it may affect taste buds as well.

A new study from France led by Nelly Jacob has suggested that smokers and former smokers may not be able to taste the full flavour of coffee. The study published on March 26 found that toxic chemicals in tobacco products diminish taste bud regeneration and impair a person’s ability to recognize bitter tastes.

“Smoking flattens out taste buds so they’re not as effective but your sense of smell diminishes as well,” said Irene Bond, a registered nurse at Humber.

In the study, researchers divided participants into groups consisting of 48 smokers and 309 non-smokers. It found that nearly 20 per cent of smokers were not able to correctly identify the bitter taste of coffee. Of the former smokers, almost 27 per cent were not able to identify the taste.

Although tobacco use can diminish the sense of taste, it can be recovered.

Lindsay Taylor, the assistant manager of Leave the Pack Behind, a campus smoking program, said recent quitters would notice that food tastes so much better after they quit.

“The damage done to these senses is repaired with quitting,” she said.

She adds it’s recommended that a smoker attempting to quit reduce their caffeine consumption as well.

“Caffeine is likely to affect them more because it is now taking longer for caffeine to be metabolized and processed by the body,” she said.

The link between drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes is common among smokers.

Katherine Wallace who is in charge of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario’s (RNAO) smoking cessation program said very often somebody who smokes may also drink coffee.

“It’s a way of having a break,” said Wallace.

It can be part of routine, part of socializing or a way to help cope with stress, she said.

“For people who have a coffee and a cigarette it becomes an associating action,” said Bond. “Coffee can be a trigger, it’s like the hook.”

Humber civil engineering student, Evan Miller knows all too well about the association. He smokes and drinks coffee regularly.

“It’s a habit,” said Miller. “It goes hand-in-hand.”

The close association between smoking and caffeine consumption can be broken.

One of the important things with smoking cessation is that you take the first step and break that association, said Bond.

“Have the coffee indoors where you can’t smoke,” she said.

For more information about smoking cessation visit the Humber Health Centre, where nicotine replacement therapy is available for free.