Why Cigarette Smokers Might As Well Say "Adios" to Their Sense of Smell and Taste

Everyone knows that smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer, emphysema and other health problems, but it also has other effects that people don't always consider. For example, people rarely discuss how traditional smoking can ruin a person's sense of taste and smell. Several studies such as one performed in Greece in 2009 have proven that cigarette smoke makes food taste less palatable while weakening one's sense of smell.

How Smoking Affects the Sense of Taste

The simplest explanation for how cigarettes destroy one's sense of taste is that it changes the shape of the taste buds over time. More specifically, cigarette smoke actually flattens the taste buds and neutralizes a person's ability to taste. That much has been proven in numerous studies, but it's not entirely clear why this happens. Some believe that the nicotine itself is the culprit, while others have pointed to the thousands of other chemicals found in traditional cigarettes. More studies need to be performed to find the true reason why a smoker's taste buds become flattened out.

It should be noted that traditional smoking won't completely take away a person's sense of taste; what seems to happen is that the four main flavors that people experience (sweet, sour, bitter and salty) aren't as strong to smokers as they are to non-smokers. A smoker can still tell when something is salty, but not to the degree of a non-smoker.

How Smoking Affects the Sense of Smell

Although scientists aren't entirely sure why traditional smoking affects a person's sense of taste, they are reasonably certain why it has such a profound effect on the sense of smell. When a smoker inhales and exhales smoke through the nose, the olfactory nerves at the back of the nose are damaged. The longer a person smokes, the more these nerves become damaged and the more their sense of smell is dulled.

According to studies by the American Council of Science and Health, smokers are twice as likely to lose their senses of taste and smell as non-smokers. Fortunately, there are ways of avoiding or even reversing this damage. The best of course is to quit smoking altogether, but that is notoriously difficult without some help.

Another way to reverse the damage done by cigarettes is to look for smoking alternatives such as electronic cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes aren't 100 percent safe, but since they lack most of the chemicals found in traditional cigarettes they are far less likely to damage a person's senses of taste and smell. Many e-cigarettes even contain little to no nicotine, making them a great alternative for those who are either trying to give up cigarettes or who want to enjoy the experience of smoking with little of its ill effects.

Electronic cigarettes and other smoking alternatives were once fairly obscure, but they've become almost commonplace in recent years. Check them out to see if any could be right for you.

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