BACKGROUND. General practitioners are aware of the need to provide easily accessible health promotion information for their patients. Although many practices use health promotion posters in their surgeries, there appears to have been no formal evaluation of their effectiveness. AIM. A study was undertaken to investigate whether patients read and remembered waiting room posters, and if so, what factors influenced this. METHOD. A short questionnaire was distributed to patients in one practice following their consultation. It asked what they remembered of the poster display in the waiting room. RESULTS. Of 319 patients attending a doctor during the study period 82% said they had noticed the posters, 95% of whom reported they had also read them. Patients over 50 years of age were significantly more likely to say they had read the posters than younger patients, but significantly fewer showed interest in further information. The sex of patients did not influence their reading of posters or their interest in further health promotion literature. The longer patients had to wait for the doctor, the more likely they were to remember the subject of the posters correctly. Some subjects appeared to attract more patients' attention than others, in particular the displays about smoking cessation and about the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Overall 53% said they would be interested in more information. CONCLUSION. Patients say they read and remember the subject of waiting room posters. Posters in the waiting room can increase awareness of health promotion issues.