Associations of Taste Perception with Tobacco Smoking, Marijuana Use, and Weight Status in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

Chem Senses. 2021 Jan 1:46:bjab017. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjab017.


Habitual smoking of tobacco and marijuana can lead to weight changes and poor diet quality. These effects may be caused by taste changes related to smoking and marijuana use. This study examined the associations among taste perceptions of a bitterant (quinine) and salt, tobacco and marijuana use, and weight status. We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of adults who responded to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2013-2014. Participants (n = 2808; female = 51.7%) were adults ≥40 years with an average body mass index (BMI) of 29.6 kg/m2. Participants completed whole mouth and tongue tip assessments of bitter (quinine) and salty (NaCl) tastes, and questionnaires on demographics, cigarette, tobacco, and drug use. Measured height and weight were used to calculate BMI. Compared with never smokers, current smokers reported increased bitter ratings. Smoking status was not associated with salty taste intensity ratings after adjustment for demographic variables. Current marijuana users reported lower tongue tip quine ratings than never users. Among current smokers, current marijuana users had lower whole mouth quinine ratings than never users. Taste perception for salt and quinine for current and former smokers as well as marijuana smokers varied in whole mouth and tongue tip assessment. Changes in taste perception among cigarette smokers and marijuana consumers may be clinically relevant to address to improve diet and weight status.

Keywords: bitter; body mass index; marijuana; obesity; salt; smoking; taste.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Marijuana Smoking*
  • Marijuana Use*
  • Nicotiana
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Taste
  • Taste Perception