Smoking Declines and Food Fandom Grows. Coincidence?

smoker.jpg
Cigs: They blunt your sense of taste and stunt your growth.
Smoke-Free Texas, a coalition agitating for a state law prohibiting smoking in restaurants and bars, this month released a study showing people would eat out more often if they didn't have to contend with secondhand smoke.

No offense to Smoke-Free Texas, but that's hardly a surprising finding. Even most smokers don't like their food seasoned with stale cigarette smoke: That's why many restaurants not covered by restrictive ordinances have resorted to home rule and eliminated their smoking sections. With the national smoking rate down to about 20 percent, there aren't too many diners clamoring to be seated in a smoke-filled room.

Non-smoking policies are good for business, and while I don't have a fancy poll to back up my claim, I'd wager non-smokers are good for the restaurant business too.

In 1955, 57 percent of men smoked. They smoked so much that they more than made up for the men -- and the more than 70 percent of American women -- who didn't smoke. The per capita inhale stood at one pack a day. It was common, of course, to smoke on the train, smoke in the elevator and smoke while eating. Americans smoked over steak Dianes, chop sueys and chicken a la king -- the specific dishes didn't always matter, because the nation's collective palate had been deadened by smoke.

Greek scientists in 2009 scrutinized the tongues of 62 soldiers, and discovered the smokers had flatter taste buds than their non-smoking colleagues. Since taste buds are linked with taste sensitivity, researchers gave the flat-budders a taste test: 85 percent of them performed worse than non-smoking subjects. Smoking, the study concluded, "can lead to decreased taste sensitivity."

But a tongue with rounded taste buds can presumably appreciate the nuance of lavender; the shading of a delicate cream sauce and the subtlety of expertly crafted olive oil. A non-smoker stands a good chance of becoming a food lover.

As the many smokers gathered around kitchen back doors demonstrate, smokers can love food too. But I don't think it's a coincidence that the fetishization of food has taken off as smoking has plummeted. Perhaps it's just a shift in oral fixations, but it's hard to imagine a generation with dulled tongues getting aroused by raw milk cheeses and single barrel whiskies.

Greg Cameron, spokesperson for the American Cancer Society, told me there's no evidence that less smoking has led to the hordes of food obsessives snapping cell phone shots of their dishes and trading rumors about chefs.

Still, he ventures, "It would make sense. It might be kind of cool to go into a restaurant and ask people if they're really into the fact that they can taste their food."

Follow City of Ate on Twitter: @cityofate.

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21 comments
Chrispeitel
Chrispeitel

Hello Ignorant Facists! I dont Smoke but Smoking should be up to each individual Restaurant & Bar -- Not a bunch of crooked politicians, who love to tax cigarettes high, but wont allow anyone to smoke them, and the holier than thou Doctors {who over charge everyone} Butt out you smoke Nazi's!

BANTOBACCONOW
BANTOBACCONOW

Smokers were NEVER half or more than half of the U.S. population; that's another LIE from the tobacco pushers. Currently, smokers are 12.5% of the American population. And 90% of that minority say they want to quit, but are too severely addicted to the tobacco drug to do so.

Tobacco is already an ILLEGAL drug, based upon the fact that it is ILLEGAL to POISON people, no matter how slowly you do it.

BAN ALL SMOKING, everywhere and then BAN THE ILLEGAL TOBACCO DRUG, NOW!

Ash Hole
Ash Hole

As both a chef and a smoker, I'd have to say ya'll are right... We are all scum of the earth! Coincidentally, just about every chef I've known is a smoker, and I've known a lot of em over the years, the last chef, Rod Abligot of Sunda, didn't want to be labeled a smoker, he would just constantly bum cigs from everyone else. It's screwed up if you think about it, he wasn't worried about his health, he was a big fat guy who ate lots of fatty things... he just didn't want people to think he was a smoker, because it might hurt his reputation as a chef I guess? That's how the fine dining scene in Chicago is like I guess, a big shiney facade. Anyways... people like this writer have shamed him into hiding his true self, its really a horrible thing.

Also... I think the food lover craze as of the last 10 years is all due to me. lol jk... I think it has a lot more to do with all the crappy food that's out there, and all the people that are eating it. The internet has been a great vehicle for this awareness to spread. It's become more relevant in our lives because the way we have been producing food and eating it is not viable for a sustainable or healthy future. The food network has also done a great job of encouraging eating well... which can be a refreshing break from much of today's tv, which could best be described as harmful to humanity.

I highly doubt that smoking bans have made a difference in this new trend at all, he danced around about this for 4 paragraphs as if it were true... I hate it when writers try to mislead their readers, especially for such a insignificant shot at people who enjoy smoking... People who mislead others into following their trite annoyances are way worse then second hand smoke... now, I'm not saying this writer is like a Bill O'reilly... but this Hannah Raskin may just be a young one still... I'd put money that she has some personal annoyance with a chef she regrets meeting in a smokey bar.

BTW, I'm not a heavy smoker, but have been a smoker for 10 years, not that I'm bragging about it, I'm just not ashamed to say that I enjoy cigarettes, but I enjoy good food a whole lot more. To insinuate that smokers are unable to enjoy fine foods is kind of offensive, and really a b*tch thing to say, and untrue. Anthony Bourdain smokes like a chimney, and hes one of the most well respected food lovers in the world, for good reason, he really loves and understands food.

Poopranger
Poopranger

Leave the poor smokers alone! Jesus, I can't believe how self-righteous people have become about this crap. I hate cigarettes, but I'll be damend if I don't support their right to smoke. Lighten up, folks. The bankers and industrialists are destroying the human will to survive. Focus on them!

partyallday
partyallday

"scum of the earth" you sir have clearly never enjoyed a finely crafted belmont after a cold mgd. It puts any food to shame.

Marvin Lee
Marvin Lee

As one of the the "scum of the earth" I have to say most chefs I've ever met fall in the same category.

Justin Julian
Justin Julian

And yet we have places like Lewisville (where I live), Grapevine, and Highland Village who refuse all attempts at no-smoking laws. So, we go eat in Flower Mound or drive to Dallas, where we can breathe. Oh, but if they stop smoking it'll KILL BUSINESS!!!!!!11111ONEONE

Yeah, because every place in Dallas and Plano is closed now.

Why am I not mentioning Fort Worth? Because it's rude to pick on the mentally disabled.

BubbaCo
BubbaCo

Smokers are the scum of the earth.

Alan
Alan

Now I don't care much one way or another about the subject of your article, but the mention of raw milk cheeses made me think that you might be interested in the link here...

http://www.foodrenegade.com/ar...

Chrispeitel
Chrispeitel

Did You Ever Get out Of the 3rd Grade IDIOT ???

Orchid64
Orchid64

Anthony Bourdain quit smoking in 2007 when his daughter was born, so it's no longer true that he "smokes like a chimney."

Smoking does suppress your sense of taste, but so do other things (like allergies, having a cold, or eating certain foods which alter your perception of the taste of other foods). I don't think it stops you from enjoying food, but rather makes you enjoy different tastes than non-smokers.

CancerSurviver
CancerSurviver

@poopranger - I am sorry but I am focusing on the issue of this. Why do smokers have more rights than non-smokers, when did someone have a right to blow a cancer causing cocktail into the air? Does Restaurants have the right to add cyanide to their misters? add formaldahyde? NO! Do they have to right to cook food at a temperature below what health experts say is good? NO! Do they have the right to let cockroaches or mice run around and leave their droppings all over the place? NO! Smokefree Texas conducted a poll and 70% want a law that says you can't smoke in public places. That includes every demographic group on the political spectrum. 63% said they would support a member of the Legislature who supported it vs only 18% who said they would be mad at said legislator for voting for a law. Your right to blow smoke ends at my nose @poopranger, enough said!

JD hates Pontiac
JD hates Pontiac

Anti-smoking is the temperance movement of the 21st century. That pretty much sums up the entire thing.

Jonas M Luster
Jonas M Luster

The best chefs I ever worked for, the best tongues in the business, even the ones that get lauded to heck and back in food media for being the second coming of Tastebud Jeebus, smoke multiple packs a day. Paul Bocuse, Bernard Loiseau, the Troisgros brothers, Ferdinand Point... the list goes on.

Do smoking sections reduce covers? Aye, they do. Non-smoking rules benefit, primarily, low- and middle-class food service operations, haute cuisine and fine dining seem to actually suffer for a while (12-18 months if California is an indicator) before they recover and, then, rake in better than before.

This "all or nothing" approach isn't doing anyone a service. Why not let restaurants decide? If there is indeed money to be made by removing smoker's lounges, money-wise chefs and owners will catch on. If there isn't, well, then this discussion isn't going down the right path anyways, no?

Chris
Chris

Yeah, and you're a feebleminded jerkoff.

Jonas M Luster
Jonas M Luster

Bourdain also stopped being a Chef and became a TV celebrity (he's the first to tell you that, Chef means someone who commandeers a brigade, it's not a honorific or title bestowed upon cooks for being able to make dish X) in 2002. During his time as the Chef at Les Halles he smoked. Lots.

A tarred chef's tongue, calibrated in the furnace of 20+ years of work, still beats most any non-smoker amateur's palate. Not because chefs have better tastebuds, no, but because we know (I am a rabid non-smoker, by the way, but reality is reality) what taste gets what kind of diner excited. You can smoke two packs a day, guzzle Fernet Branca from the 1l bottle, and get a number of Michelin starred places to adore your palate. Don't believe me? Ask Robuchon, he might let you have a Marlboro and a swig from his bottle.

Ash Hole
Ash Hole

That's cool for Tony, however irrelevant since the point I was making still stands. So why say it? /shrug

Second paragraph also besides the point, why'd you press reply at all? just to make b*tchy comments? I used the words I did for a reason, please don't put words in my mouth to distract from the point that you non smoking advocate's are some real b*tch's. Maybe you need help reading.

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