The accurate assessment of cytotoxicity is important for evaluating the potential of a test agent to induce pathologies that result from cell killing and to determine appropriate doses for other endpoints, such as genetic toxicology studies. The objective of this work was to determine the most sensitive assays for assessing cytotoxicity in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells following short-term (1 h) and long-term (24 h) exposure to cigarette smoke condensate (CSC). Eight in vitro cytotoxicity assays with different endpoints were used to evaluate the cytotoxicity of Kentucky reference 1R4F (K1R4F) CSC in CHO cells. The assays used for this study were neutral red uptake, LDH release, kenacid blue binding, MTT formation, XTT formation, acid phosphatase activity, sulforhodamine B binding and resazurin binding. Four of the more widely used cytotoxicity assays (neutral red, MTT, kenacid blue and LDH) were also evaluated at 3-, 6-, 12- and 18-h time points. At the 1-h exposure time, LDH was the most sensitive with toxicity observed beginning at 100 microg/ml. None of the other assays demonstrated a concentration-dependent increase in toxicity after 1-h exposures even at the maximum concentration of 150 microg/ml of CSC. Following 24 h of exposure, neutral red and kenacid blue were the most sensitive. The results of our study indicate the assay that measured membrane integrity was the most sensitive for short exposure times, whereas the neutral red and kenacid blue assays that measured total cell number were more sensitive for longer exposure times.