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Evidence of prolonged exposure to cigarette smoke was sought in a group of 86 children aged five years and under with moderately severe asthma, and in 1199 infants from a mixed background population of Armed Service and civilian families. Asthmatics with a normal serum IgE (less than +1 s.d. for age) made up almost half of the cases and, compared with those with an elevated serum IgE (+1 s.d. for age or more), a greater proportion were male, had experienced prolonged exposure to cigarette smoke, were from Service families and already had fixed chest deformity. It is suggested that, in addition to facilitating the expression of asthma in young potential atopics, passive smoking may be an important contributory cause of the more severe disease reported in the so-called 'intrinsic' group. Perhaps the burden of illness and the extent of exposure noted in this survey will prompt renewed efforts to be made to discourage smoking in families, particularly two years before and for at least five years after the birth of a child.