Blood nicotine and carboxyhaemoglobin (COHb) concentrations were studied in 330 smokers (206 women and 124 men). Blood nicotine concentrations in individual smokers varied from 25 to 444 nmol/l (4 to 72 ng/ml). The average concentration, 203 nmol/l (33 ng/ml), was the same in the men and the women, although cigarette consumption was higher in the men. Despite large differences in nicotine yield, there was no relation between blood nicotine concentration and the type of cigarette smoked: smokers of plain, untipped cigarettes (1.9 mg nicotine), cigarettes with unventilated filters (1.3 mg nicotine), and cigarettes with ventilated filters (0.8 mg nicotine) had similar blood nicotine concentrations. Cigarette consumption was also similar in these three groups. The correlation between blood nicotine concentration and nicotine yield of cigarette, though significant, was low (0.21, p < 0.001), showing that the nicotine yield of the cigarettes accounted for only 4.4% of the variation in blood nicotine concentrations. Similarly, the low correlation of 0.30 between COHb concentration and cigarette consumption suggests that cigarette consumption accounted for only 9% of the variation in the amount of smoke taken into the smokers' lungs. These results suggest that the assumed health advantage of switching to lower-tar and lower-nicotine cigarettes may be largely offset by the tendency of smokers to compensate by increasing inhalation. The findings of epidemiological studies showing lower risks with filter-tipped cigarettes may be attributable to other factors such as biases in the samples and changes in the quality and carcinogenicity of tobacco tar, rather than to reduced tar intake.