Aims: To examine tobacco industry research on smoking-related sensory effects, including differences in sensory perception across smoker groups, and to determine whether this research informed targeted product development and impacted the development of commercial tobacco products.
Design: We searched previously secret internal tobacco industry documents available online through document databases housed at Tobacco Documents Online, the British American Tobacco Document Archive and the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library. We identified relevant documents using a snowball sampling method to first search the databases using an initial set of key words and to then establish further search terms.
Findings: Sensory research is a priority within the tobacco industry directly impacting commercial markets both in the United States and internationally. Sensory factors contribute to smoker satisfaction and product acceptance, and play an important role in controlling puffing behavior. Cigarette manufacturers have capitalized on distinct sensory preferences across gender, age and ethnic groups by tailoring products for specific populations.
Conclusions: Regulation of tobacco products is needed to address product changes that are used to reinforce or contribute to tobacco dependence; for instance, the incorporation of additives that target attributes such as smoothness, harshness and aftertaste. Greater understanding of the role of sensory effects on smoking behavior may also help to inform the development of tobacco treatment options that support long-term tobacco abstinence.