A recent study by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Utah said that taste genes played an important role in smoking. The research mainly focused on various genes such as nicotine metabolism, personality traits, and regulation of emotions and studied whether they are related to the ability to smoke.
The results of this study were published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research. The researchers studied the importance of the bitterness gene-phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) in relation with to smoking. They also analyzed the importance of the taste of cigarettes for a smoker.
The results showed that smokers who possessed less sensitivity to bitter taste were more likely to rate taste as a strong reason for smoking, and those who were sensitive to bitter taste were less likely to smoke for taste. It was understood that smoker with a decreased ability to sense taste were the least to smoke.
Hence the genetic factors involving the taste of cigarettes should be examined as part of the analysis of nicotine dependence. The study conducted in Milwaukee by the University of Wisconsin included 384 smokers, enrolled in a smoking cessation study and 183 controls who were asked to donate blood samples.
Researchers from Utah examined the blood samples collected from these participants for the PTC gene's two most common sets of alleles PAV and AVI, named for the amino acids at their three genetic-pair locations. People with only PAV are most sensitive to bitter taste, while those with only AVI are less sensitive.
People with AVI allele are referred to as the non-tasters. They were more likely to smoke for the taste of cigarettes than the PAV who are the tasters. A third group, people with the less common intermediate taster type AAV, were the least (20%) likely to smoke. Researchers used the WISDM-68 (the Wisconsin Index of Smoking Dependence Motives), to compare taste ratings with genetic analyses.
Timothy Baker, a UW-Madison psychologist and one of the study's authors said that there were significant difference in the motivation to smoke for the taste of cigarettes between those who perceived bitter taste and those who failed to perceive bitterness. Factors such as sight and smell trigger the urge to smoke in people who were not bitter-tasters.
But further research is needed to find the existence of the gender differences in tasting bitterness and smoking.