Original Communication

Journal of Neurology

, Volume 255, Issue 8, pp 1121-1126

First online:

The association between smoking and smell and taste impairment in the general population

  • M. M. VennemannAffiliated withInstitute of Epidemiology and Social Medicine, University of MünsterInstitute of Legal Medicine, University of Münster Email author 
  • , T. HummelAffiliated withSmell & Taste Clinic, Dept. of Otorhinolaryngology, University of Dresden Medical School
  • , K. BergerAffiliated withInstitute of Epidemiology and Social Medicine, University of Münster

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The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of smoking on taste and smell impairment in a large population- based study.

Study design

Cross-sectional survey in Dortmund, Germany.


The population sample was randomly drawn from the city’s central registration office. Following a standardized interview, validated taste and smell tests were performed. Descriptive statistics and logistic regression was used in the analysis.


Among the 1312 study participants, 3.6 % were functionally anosmic, and 18 % had olfactory dysfunction. Approximately 20 % recognized only three or less of the four tastes when presented at suprathreshold concentrations, indicating signs of taste impairment. Current smoking in general increased the risk for impairment of olfactory function (odds ratio 1.71, 95 % CI 1.19–2.47), but not the risk for taste impairment. Heavy smokers of 20 or more cigarettes/day had significant increased risks for impairment in both senses.


Our results reveal that both olfactory and gustatory function are compromised in a significant proportion of the general population. Smoking increases significantly the risk of impairment of olfactory function. Our findings add an important detail to the large body of evidence that describes adverse health effects of smoking.

Key words

odor olfaction gustation aging population studies risk factors