Some things just go well together – peanut butter and chocolate, wine and cheese, and, of course, cigarettes and coffee.
I once had a girlfriend who was a smoker and a coffee drinker, and she swore that it was the best combination of her day.
So, what is the secret behind this seemingly perfect combination?
Cigarettes and coffee go together because their flavors complement each other. When it comes to taste, cigarettes help limit the bitterness of the coffee, thus making the coffee more enjoyable. On the other hand, caffeine helps to curb the craving for more nicotine.
There may be other reasons that people enjoy coffee and cigarettes together and it may well vary from individual to individual.
Still, the very fact that so many people express this effect leads to the conclusion that there’s a clear positive correlation in the minds of many.
The Reason Why Cigarettes and Coffee Go Together
We’re a society that runs on caffeine. A large part of the population finds it enormously difficult to even begin their day without their morning hit of caffeine.
The kicker, though, is that at least a third of the people who drink coffee don’t like the taste of the stuff.
Sometimes loading it up with cream and sugar isn’t even enough.
So let’s throw cigarettes into the mix. Studies have shown that a smoker’s taste buds function differently than nonsmokers.
Over time, cigarettes change the way the taste buds work, making those buds significantly less sensitive.
The end result is that when a person enjoys a cigarette with their morning cup of joe, they can’t taste the bitterness from the coffee.
Interestingly enough, coffee isn’t always bitter, and there could be quite a few reasons it has such a bitter flavor.
What People Who Smoke and Drink Coffee Have To Say
There seems to be a consensus among those who both smoke and drink coffee that the combination does, in fact, taste very good.
Plenty of speculation has gone into this. So what’s the reason?
Well, many factors are involved, but the majority seem to think it has to do with the roasting of the coffee bean and the roasting of the tobacco.
The roasting process allows both products to release more sugar and oils, which end up breaking down in a similar way, and thus, cause the flavor pairing.
Satisfying the Nicotine Craving
When a person gets used to smoking, their brain becomes addicted to the nicotine contained in cigarettes.
Some studies have shown that roasted coffee beans actually affect the part of the brain that is craving nicotine, causing less of a craving.
This doesn’t mean that people still don’t want their morning cigarette along with coffee, but it could be one reason why it seems like smokers prefer to enjoy their cigarettes at the same time as their coffee.
For more information on this topic, check out this article by Neuroscience News.
Looking at the Brain Chemistry
When it comes down to it, both caffeine and nicotine are addictive chemicals.
This is the reason that once we start drinking coffee and smoking, it becomes incredibly hard to break these habits.
This is even more true when you’ve had the experience of picking up both of these habits.
Let’s take a look at what goes on inside the brain with each of these chemicals.
A Quick Overview of Brain Chemicals
There are three main chemicals that both caffeine and nicotine affect. Here’s a quick overview:
- Serotonin affects mood, sleep, nausea, digestion, and more. However, when it comes to its effect with caffeine, it’s focused primarily on how it affects the sleep-wake cycle. Serotonin stimulates the areas of the brain that control how sleepy we actually feel.
- Dopamine works similarly to serotonin in many ways, but it’s much more focused on keeping you alert. It also supports coordination and works with long-term memory.
- Acetylcholine stimulates movement in the muscles. It is one of the main reasons why we feel energized.
Your Brain on Caffeine
Caffeine is by far one of the most common addictive substances in our world today, and this is particularly true for first-world countries.
In America alone, 64% of adults insist on coffee in the mornings, and there are real reasons why.
Caffeine is a stimulant that primarily affects all three brain chemicals. It works by boosting the effects of serotonin, dopamine, and acetylcholine.
In layman’s terms, what this means is that when you drink your morning coffee, it can make you feel a little like a superhuman, at least for an hour or two.
Most people are deficient in serotonin and dopamine especially. This is one reason why so many people report feelings of depression.
Having a coffee in the morning helps those of us with a little more deficiency to get up and to move and get through our day.
If you’re interested in knowing more about the science behind why caffeine gives you energy, check out this article by Tufts Journal.
Your Brain on Nicotine
Unlike caffeine, nicotine centers around mimicking the chemical dopamine.
It works to stimulate all the pleasure centers of your brain, and you begin to feel like you’ve gotten a reward every time you have a cigarette.
Nicotine’s reward system is even more active when a person starts smoking very young because the brain is still in the process of maturing.
Essentially, this means that young people associate more pleasure with taking in nicotine, leaving them with a far greater addiction than an adult who starts smoking later in life.
People who smoke report feeling elevated energy levels, more relaxed, and more ready to take on their day after having a cigarette.
Tying the Two Together
Given that both caffeine and cigarettes work inside the brain to cause a person to feel more alert, happy, and confident, it’s no wonder that people feel like they pair so well together.
When someone puts coffee and nicotine together, it creates a chemical cocktail of good feelings.
The caffeine helps with alertness and gets the muscles contracting to start the day, and the nicotine helps the person to feel great about starting their day.
An interesting side note is that a similar effect can be observed when cigarettes are paired with alcohol, which is equally as common as cigarettes and coffee.
Why Do You Always Want a Cigarette After Coffee?
Research has shown a significant tie between coffee and cigarettes; in general, those who consume both will always want a cigarette after coffee.
Interestingly enough, this is not always true of the opposite. Fewer people insist on a coffee after a cigarette than vice versa.
Studies show that caffeine, while it can initially have a numbing effect on the desire for nicotine, actually increases that desire shortly after that.
This can also be due to boredom or the fact that a habit has been formed.
Strangely, people who both smoke and drink coffee aren’t aware that this is happening.
When asked about why they smoke after coffee, their response is simply, “They just go together.”
Is Pairing Coffee and Cigarettes Bad for Your Health?
So how does this unlikely combination affect your health?
Both coffee and cigarettes are stimulants. This means that they are working to heighten your energy levels, but this also means that they’re causing your heart to work a little harder.
They also have opposite effects on your blood flow, with nicotine restricting arteries and caffeine increasing blood flow.
This can easily cause plaque build-up in your arteries since that extra blood can’t get through easily.
There’s no denying that coffee and cigarettes just seem to go together, but the answer as to why is a bit more complicated.
Perhaps it has to do with the flavors, but I speculate that it has much more to do with what occurs inside the brain when these two powerful stimulants are mixed.
Whatever the reasoning is, it’s pretty clear that this is an extraordinary combination.
- Eleven Coffees: 7 Reasons Your Coffee Is Bitter (& How to Fix It Forever)
- Tobacco Free Life: Coffee and Cigarettes: Time to Break the Link
- Medical News Today: Smokers’ Taste Buds Do Not Allow Them to Taste the Bitterness of Coffee
- Neuroscience News: Coffee and Cigarettes: Research Sheds New Light on Nicotine and Morning Brew
- National Library of Medicine: Caffeine and the central nervous system: mechanisms of action, biochemical, metabolic and psychostimulant effects
- Tufts Journal: Why Does Caffeine Give You Energy?
- Healthline: What You Need to Know About Smoking and Your Brain
- National Library of Medicine: Short- and Long-Term Consequences of Nicotine Exposure during Adolescence for Prefrontal Cortex Neuronal Network Function
- Smarmore Castle: Coffee and Cigarettes Side Effects – A Really Bad Combination
- Kwit: Is it a Good Idea to Mix Nicotine and Caffeine
- Quora: Why Do Coffee and Cigarettes Taste So Good?
- NCBI: Effect of cigarette smoke on gustatory sensitivity, evaluation of the deficit and of the recovery time-course after smoking cessation – PMC