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Sensory methods to evaluate perception of flavours in tobacco and other nicotine-containing products: a review
  1. Jennifer K Bernat1,
  2. Kia J Jackson1,
  3. Erna J Z Krüsemann2,3,
  4. Sanne Boesveldt3,
  5. Susan F Rudy1,
  6. Reinskje Talhout2
  1. 1 Center for Tobacco Products, Office of Science, US Food and Drug Administration, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA
  2. 2 Centre for Health Protection, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven, The Netherlands
  3. 3 Division of Human Nutrition and Health, Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jennifer K Bernat, Center for Tobacco Products, Office of Science, US Food and Drug Administration, Silver Spring, MD 20903, USA; Jennifer.Bernat{at}


Objectives Sensory methods use human senses to evaluate product attributes. This review provides an overview of the types of sensory methods used to evaluate the perception of flavour in tobacco and other nicotine-containing (ToNic) products and to discuss how sensory data could inform flavoured ToNic product policy.

Data sources PubMed, Embase and Web of Science.

Study selection All peer-reviewed studies evaluating ToNic products using a sensory method published before 23 May 2020.

Data extraction Two independent coders completed title/abstract and full-text screening to choose articles for inclusion (Cohen’s kappa=0.85, strong agreement). Each coder completed data extraction on half the articles, recording relevant information (eg, sensory methods used, results). The coders categorised sensory methods and generated overarching themes.

Data synthesis Of 110 articles identified, we included 29 articles containing 35 studies that used sensory methods to investigate ToNic products. The sensory methods included analytic methods such as discrimination and descriptive tests and hedonic methods such as liking tests. Six themes emerged regarding how sensory methods can be used to understand consumer perception and liking of ToNic products and to inform ToNic product policy.

Conclusions The identified studies highlight that sensory data can inform ToNic product policy. Analytic and sensory hedonic ratings can be used to assess a ToNic product’s ability to promote addiction in the user (ie, abuse liability). Lastly, hedonic ratings can provide information to assess potential use behaviours.

  • public policy
  • nicotine
  • electronic nicotine delivery devices
  • non-cigarette tobacco products
  • hand-rolled/RYO tobacco

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  • Contributors All authors contributed to conceptualisation, interpretation of results and editing of the manuscript. JKB conducted the literature search with assistance from an informationist. JKB and KJJ performed all coding tasks. JKB, KJJ and RT wrote the first draft. EJZK, SB and SFR provided extensive feedback and editing of all drafts. All authors reviewed and approved the final version.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Disclaimer This publication represents the views of the authors and does not represent FDA/CTP position or policy.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Author note References with a dagger indicate articles included in the systematic review, while references with an asterisk indicate industry-funded research.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.