Previous studies have shown an increased number of inflammatory cells and, in particular, CD8+ve cells in the airways of smokers with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In this study we investigated whether a similar inflammatory process is also present in the lungs, and particularly in lung parenchyma and pulmonary arteries. We examined surgical specimens from three groups of subjects undergoing lung resection for localized pulmonary lesions: nonsmokers (n = 8), asymptomatic smokers with normal lung function (n = 6), and smokers with COPD (n = 10). Alveolar walls and pulmonary arteries were examined with immunohistochemical methods to identify neutrophils, eosinophils, mast cells, macrophages, and CD4+ve and CD8+ve cells. Smokers with COPD had an increased number of CD8+ve cells in both lung parenchyma (p < 0.05) and pulmonary arteries (p < 0.001) as compared with nonsmokers. CD8+ve cells were also increased in pulmonary arteries of smokers with COPD as compared with smokers with normal lung function (p < 0.01). Other inflammatory cells were no different among the three groups. The number of CD8+ve cells in both lung parenchyma and pulmonary arteries was significantly correlated with the degree of airflow limitation in smokers. These results show that an inflammatory process similar to that present in the conducting airways is also present in lung parenchyma and pulmonary arteries of smokers with COPD.