Smoking is a tough habit to quit even with nicotine gum, patches and all the encouragement in the world. But there might be a new tool in the fight to knock the habit: a pleasant aroma.
Scientists report in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology that smokers who inhale a pleasant smell like peppermint, lemon or vanilla reduced their urge to light up.
Researchers gathered more than 200 smokers who weren’t trying to quit and were not using tobacco-replacement products. The researchers asked them to refrain from lighting up in the eight hours before going to the lab.
They were then told to smell a range of odors, including especially pleasant ones, tobacco leaves or a product with no smell at all. Then came the tough part. The volunteers lit a cigarette, held it without inhaling, before rating their urge to smoke on a scale of 1 to 100. On average, their cravings clocked in at about 82.
Afterward, participants smelled their favorite aroma. They also got a whiff of tobacco leaves and an odorless product, again rating their craving. The volunteers continued to indulge their olfactory delight as much as they liked for the next five minutes, rating their urge to smoke at intervals.
Smokers’ craving declined no matter what they were smelling. But if they sniffed something they especially enjoyed, their urge dropped considerably more — by an average of 19 points.
Researchers say more work is needed to study this phenomenon, but they think their results are intriguing. Some academics, however, caution smokers against giving up on proven methods of smoking cessation.
It might be too early to stop and smell the roses.