1. Cigarette puffing parameters (puff volume, puff duration, number of puffs, total smoking time) and inhaled smoke volume (by a radiotracer techique) have been measured in a group of 11 asymptomatic smokers, once after topical anaesthesia of the upper airways and once without anaesthesia.
2. Topical anaesthesia significantly reduced the mean inhaled smoke volume per puff for the group from 41.1 ml to 30.6 ml (P < 0.05) and the total inhaled smoke volume from 575 ml to 528 ml (P = 0.05), but cigarette puffing parameters were unchanged.
3. It is concluded that stimulation of upper airway sensory receptors, probably sensitive to nicotine, may be an important mechanism in determining the amount of cigarette smoke inhaled by smokers.