Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterized by the presence of airflow obstruction caused by emphysema or airway narrowing, or both. Low attenuation areas (LAA) on computed tomography (CT) have been shown to represent macroscopic or microscopic emphysema, or both. However CT has not been used to quantify the airway abnormalities in smokers with or without airflow obstruction. In this study, we used CT to evaluate both emphysema and airway wall thickening in 114 smokers. The CT measurements revealed that a decreased FEV(1) (%predicted) is associated with an increase of airway wall area and an increase of emphysema. Although both airway wall thickening and emphysema (LAA) correlated with measurements of lung function, stepwise multiple regression analysis showed that the combination of airway and emphysema measurements improved the estimate of pulmonary function test abnormalities. We conclude that both CT measurements of airway dimensions and emphysema are useful and complementary in the evaluation of the lung of smokers.