Published in this month's issue of the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, the study confirmed the popular notion that certain foods worsen the taste of cigarettes, while others enhance their taste.
According to the researchers at Duke University Medical Center, the findings could lead to a 'Quit Smoking Diet', or to development of a gum or lozenge that makes cigarettes less palatable.
Led by Dr Joseph McClernon, the researchers examined 209 smokers, asking them to report items that worsened or enhanced the taste of cigarettes.
Overall, dairy products (such as milk or cheese), non-caffeinated beverages (such as water or juice), and fruits and vegetables were found to worsen the taste of cigarettes, by 19 percent, 14 percent and 16 percent of respondents respectively.
Forty-four percent of participants reported that alcoholic beverages enhance the taste of cigarettes; 45 percent reported caffeinated beverages, such as tea, cola and coffee; and 11 percent reported meat.
The researchers recommended that diet modifications be used in combination with standard nicotine replacement therapy, opening up new marketing possibilities for certain food products.
"With a few modifications to their diet - consuming items that make cigarettes taste bad, such as a cold glass of milk, and avoiding items that make cigarettes taste good, like a pint of beer - smokers can make quitting a bit easier," said McClernon.
Smokers of menthol cigarettes were less likely to report that any foods or beverages altered the taste of cigarettes, a finding that suggests menthol covers up bad tastes stemming from items consumed with cigarettes, the researchers said.
The research, which was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, claims to be the first study to explore the taste-altering effects of foods and beverages on cigarette palatability.