Nicotine is widely consumed throughout the world, and exerts a number of physiological effects. After nicotine is absorbed through the lungs by cigarette smoking, it undergoes extensive metabolism in humans. Nicotine is mainly metabolized to cotinine by cytochrome P450 (CYP) 2A6. CYP2A6 can metabolize some pharmaceutical agents such as halothane, valproic acid, and fadrozole, and activate tobacco-specific nitrosamines. There are large interindividual differences in nicotine metabolism, and it has been found that the interindividual differences are attributed to the genetic polymorphisms of CYP2A6 gene. This review describes the techniques for determination of in vivo nicotine metabolism, characteristics of each human CYP2A6 alleles, and ethnic differences. The relationship between CYP2A6 genetic polymorphism and potency of nicotine metabolism, smoking behavior, and cancer risk are extensively reviewed. Finally, the usefulness of nicotine metabolism for phenotyping of CYP2A6 in individuals and implication of the significance of CYP2A6 genetic polymorphism in a clinical perspective are discussed.