Does a reduced sensitivity to bitter taste increase the risk of becoming nicotine addicted?

Author: Enoch, M. A.; Harris, C. R.; Goldman, D.

Description: Cigarette smoking appears to be on the increase in adolescents. The initiation of regular smoking nearly always begins before adulthood. It is therefore crucial to find ways of identifying those children most vulnerable to nicotine addiction and prioritizing them for preventive measures. We hypothesized that individuals who, in a simple taste test, perceive phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) as bitter may find the taste of cigarettes aversively bitter and could therefore have a reduced vulnerability to nicotine addiction compared to nontasters, who would be the group at greater risk of addiction. We studied 242 Plains American Indians, 136 women and 106 men aged 18-59 years, and found that (allowing for gender differences and the possible direct effects of smoking on taste) the proportion of PTC nontasters to tasters in smokers, even light smokers, was significantly greater than in both nonsmokers and social smokers (chi2= 15.875, 4 df; P=.003), suggesting that nontasters, who are not aversive to the bitter taste of cigarettes, may be more at risk for heavy smoking and therefore more vulnerable to nicotine addiction.

Subject headings: Adolescent; Adult; Female; Humans; Indians, North American; Male; Middle Aged; Phenylthiourea; Prevalence; Risk; Smoking; Taste; Tobacco Use Disorder; Bitter

Publication year: 2001

Journal or book title: Addictive Behaviors

Volume: 26

Issue: 3

Pages: 399-404

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Serial number: 3208

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