Sensory methods to evaluate perception of flavours in tobacco and other nicotine-containing products: a review

Tob Control. 2023 Apr;32(e1):e95-e102. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2021-056681. Epub 2021 Oct 6.


Objectives: Sensory methods use human senses to evaluate product attributes. This review provides an overview of the types of sensory methods used to evaluate the perception of flavour in tobacco and other nicotine-containing (ToNic) products and to discuss how sensory data could inform flavoured ToNic product policy.

Data sources: PubMed, Embase and Web of Science.

Study selection: All peer-reviewed studies evaluating ToNic products using a sensory method published before 23 May 2020.

Data extraction: Two independent coders completed title/abstract and full-text screening to choose articles for inclusion (Cohen's kappa=0.85, strong agreement). Each coder completed data extraction on half the articles, recording relevant information (eg, sensory methods used, results). The coders categorised sensory methods and generated overarching themes.

Data synthesis: Of 110 articles identified, we included 29 articles containing 35 studies that used sensory methods to investigate ToNic products. The sensory methods included analytic methods such as discrimination and descriptive tests and hedonic methods such as liking tests. Six themes emerged regarding how sensory methods can be used to understand consumer perception and liking of ToNic products and to inform ToNic product policy.

Conclusions: The identified studies highlight that sensory data can inform ToNic product policy. Analytic and sensory hedonic ratings can be used to assess a ToNic product's ability to promote addiction in the user (ie, abuse liability). Lastly, hedonic ratings can provide information to assess potential use behaviours.

Keywords: electronic nicotine delivery devices; hand-rolled/RYO tobacco; nicotine; non-cigarette tobacco products; public policy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Flavoring Agents
  • Humans
  • Nicotiana
  • Nicotine
  • Perception
  • Tobacco Products*


  • Nicotine
  • Flavoring Agents