Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is more prevalent in infants of smokers and may involve subtle alterations in autonomic control mechanisms. Autonomic function can be assessed using blood pressure responses to a passive head-up tilt and power spectral analysis of heart rate variability. This study aimed to determine if maternal smoking altered infants' responses to head-up tilt. Blood pressure and heart rate responses to a passive 70 degrees head-up tilt were compared in infants of smokers and non-smokers at 2-3 days and 3 months of age. There were no significant differences between groups in power spectral indices. At 2-3 days, the systolic pressure response to tilt was significantly different between groups (P<0.01). In infants of smokers, systolic pressure decreased by a mean (S.E.) of 7.7(1.1) mmHg, whereas in control infants it remained unchanged. At 3 months, systolic pressure in infants of smokers remained unchanged but increased in control infants by 6.2(2.1) mmHg (P<0.05). These results indicate that maternal smoking alters autonomically mediated cardiovascular responses in the infant.