Why Do Some Cigarettes Smell Worse Than Others?

The variance in cigarette odor, ranging from surprisingly enjoyable to overwhelmingly unpleasant, can be attributed to several factors, including the blend of tobacco, the additives used, and the smoker’s personal sensory perceptions.

The Influence of Tobacco Blends and Additives

Cigarettes contain a multitude of chemicals and toxins beyond just tobacco and nicotine. The combination of these substances, even with efforts to reduce cigarette toxicity, exposes smokers to a plethora of potential poisonous toxins, contributing to the distinct and lingering smell of cigarette smoke. The type of tobacco used plays a significant role in the smell produced when a cigarette is lit. 

For instance, different tobacco types like Burley, Latakia, Virginias, Kentuckys, Orientals, and Perique each have unique tastes and smells. Brands like Lucky Strike, which use Virginia tobacco, are known for their classic cigarette smell, whereas Marlboro with their Smooths product uses a blend of Virginia, Burley, and Oriental tobacco, emit a more candy-like aroma​​.

The Role of Personal Sensory Perceptions

Perceived odor intensity is not uniform across all individuals; it varies significantly with age, sex, and smoking history. Studies indicate a general decrease in perceived odor intensity with age for both males and females. Females tend to report higher tobacco odor intensity than males, and non-smokers perceive tobacco odor more intensely than ex-smokers and smokers. This suggests that an individual’s sensory perception of cigarette smoke can be deeply personal and influenced by their physical condition and past experiences with smoking​​.

The study referenced that most participants could tell how much they would enjoy the scent and intensity of the cigarette by smelling the product when unlit.

Why Cigarettes Smell Intensely

The intense smell of cigarettes can be attributed to the chemical treatment of tobacco, designed to enhance taste and intensity, as well as the quality of tobacco used. Lower-quality tobacco tends to have a worse smell. The chemical composition of cigarettes, including the presence of ammonia, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen cyanide, among approximately 7,000 chemicals, contributes to the potent odor and toxicity of cigarette smoke​​​​.

Do Menthol Cigarettes Smell Better?

Menthol cigarettes, which add a minty-sweet flavor and aroma, are generally more accepted in the public domain compared to the natural tobacco smell of traditional cigarettes. The menthol’s numbing effect makes the smoke less harsh, potentially allowing for deeper inhalation and increased nicotine exposure, but it does not necessarily make them safer or less addictive​​.


Understanding the multifaceted reasons behind the varying smells of cigarettes highlights the complex interaction between the product’s chemical makeup and the individual’s sensory and physiological responses. This complexity underscores the importance of considering personal health and well-being in the context of smoking and exposure to cigarette smoke.

As always, the safest choice for your health is to avoid smoking cigarettes altogether, regardless of their scent.

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