Vaping May Cause Dislike of Sweet Smells

Stephen Andrews
24 May 2024

A new study conducted by food scientists at the University of Otago in New Zealand suggests that vaping has an unusual side effect on the sense of smell. In particular, it causes aversion to sweet smells. Olfactory changes have been previously included as a side effect to smoking cigarettes but scientists did not assume there would be any connection also with vaping.

The University of Otago research team carried out an interesting research project where the focus was to find out more about the impact vaping has on the senses of smell and taste among vape users. The research has been initiated as vaping trends continue to be popular among the youth. 

Vaping May Have Unexpected Effect on Your Sense of Smell

Vaping may be driving atypical sensory changes, the Otago food scientists claim. The scientists came to this result after working with 213 study participants, who either vape regularly or occasionally and those who have never used a vape pen. 

Dr. Jessica McCormack of the Food Science Department at the University of Otago, who was also the study lead author, said results indicate that non-vapers found “sweet” smells more pleasing than vapers. No differences were observed for “savory” smells or tastes in the study, however. 

“Changes in the smell and taste are often linked to dietary changes, so it is important that we understand the effects of vaping long-term, particularly in those who are not former or current smokers,” Dr. McCormack said in a comment for the study. 

As part of the research, participants tasted and sniffed various flavors and aromas diffused in simple solutions. They were asked to rate how much they enjoyed and how intense each smell and taste was, and as McCormack explained, they “did a simple sensory detection test where they had to guess between a plain water sample and the taste/smell at a very low concentration.” 

“We still have more we need to know about what the mechanisms might be here - is it related to the use of flavors or nicotine or a combination?” the researcher added. 

One proposed theory is that overexposure to sweet vape flavors among vapers might be the reason why this group did not enjoy sweet flavors as much as the other group. 

While deviations in smell and taste have been a known side effect from tobacco use, researchers did not expect that they will come across the same conclusion about vaping. 

“It was really interesting that we found a difference between our vapers and non-vapers that is consistent with studies of smokers,” Dr. McCormack said. 

Another explanation could be that nicotine is enhancing the reinforcement of stimuli, and with no nicotine on the spectrum, sweet scents might feel less pleasant, she said.

The research team also said that some of their findings may also have implications on vaping effects on eating behaviors among the youth, but that would be the subject of a future study. 

The present study was conducted in a collaboration with the National Institute for Health Innovation, and was recently published in the international journal Appetite

Also read on Soft Secrets:

To Smoke or Not to Smoke Cannabis?

Vaping with Oil: What Goes and What Doesn’t?

Everything You Need to Know About Marijuana Smell

Stephen Andrews