gms | German Medical Science

Kongress Medizin und Gesellschaft 2007

17. bis 21.09.2007, Augsburg

The association between current smoking and smell and taste impairment in the general population – the Dortmund Health Study

Meeting Abstract

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  • Mechtild Vennemann - Universität Münster, Münster
  • Thomas Hummel - Universität Dresden, Dresden
  • Klaus Berger - Universität Münster, Münster

Kongress Medizin und Gesellschaft 2007. Augsburg, 17.-21.09.2007. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2007. Doc07gmds429

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published: September 6, 2007

© 2007 Vennemann et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.



Aim: Aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of smoking on taste and smell in combination in a large sample of the general population. This study was part of the “Dortmunder Gesundheitsstudie” which was performed as a cross-sectional study to determine the frequency of major health problems in the general population in Dortmund, Germany.

Study Design: cross-sectional

Methods: The population sample (age range 25-75 years) was drawn from the central registration office in Dortmund. Following a standardized interview taste and smell tests were performed. Testing of olfactory function was performed with a 12-item odor identification test (“Sniffing Sticks”); taste function was assessed for the four basic tastes “sweet,” “sour,” “salty,” and “bitter” at suprathreshold concentrations. Smoking was recorded according to MONICA standards.

Results: The present study yielded the following major results: (1) 4% of the general population (age range 25-75 years) are functionally anosmic, and (2) approximately 18% of the general population appear to have pronounced olfactory loss. (3) Approximately 21% of the population do not recognize one or more of the 4 basic tastes when presented at suprathreshold concentrations indicating hypogeusia. (4) While the decrease of olfactory function is age-related, no such decrease is seen for suprathreshold taste function. (5) Smoking increases the risk for impairment of olfactory function; however, the risk for impairment of gustatory function is not significantly increased.

Conclusions: The present results reveal that both olfactory and gustatory function are compromised in a significant portion of the general population. Smoking contributes significantly to the impairment of olfactory function.