Smoking-cessation rates may be improved by nicotine-replacement therapy that reduces withdrawal symptoms. However, nicotine may have adverse effects on coronary circulation. The purpose of this study was to examine the short-term effects of nicotine gum chewing on the dimensions of coronary arteries of patients with coronary artery disease and on the response of coronary vessels to sympathetic stimulation caused by the cold pressor test. In 17 patients who were past chronic cigarette smokers, cross-sectional areas of 32 coronary artery stenoses and 32 adjacent apparently normal segments were measured by using quantitative coronary angiography at baseline and after a cold pressor test before and after nicotine gum chewing. The cold pressor test produces an increase in arterial pressure without any change in heart rate. These changes were similar before and after nicotine gum. Before nicotine gum, the cross-sectional area of coronary stenoses and apparently normal segments was significantly and similarly reduced during the cold pressor test (-11+/-12% and -11+/-12%, respectively; both p values <0.0001 vs. baseline). After nicotine gum, baseline cross-sectional area was not modified, and response to the cold pressor test was similar to that observed before nicotine gum (-11+/-18% and -12+/-12%, respectively; both p values <0.0001 vs. baseline). In conclusion, nicotine-replacement therapy by using nicotine gum does not reduce the surface area of normal and diseased coronary segments and does not enhance the constricting effect of sympathetic stimulation produced by the cold pressor test. Thus nicotine gum may be considered a relatively safe drug in patients who need nicotine-replacement therapy to stop smoking.