Lung Health Study participants were smokers aged 35-60 years with mild lung function impairment who participated in a 5-year, 10-center (nine in the United States, one in Canada) clinical trial in 1986-1994. The authors compared the relation of randomized treatment assignments and of smoking history during the study with changes in lung function between men and women. Spirometry was performed annually, and 3,348 men and 1,998 women attended the follow-up clinic visit that included spirometry at year 5. This paper reports on an analysis of changes in lung function by gender, treatment group, and three smoking history categories: sustained quitters, intermittent quitters, and continuing smokers. Among participants who quit smoking in the first year, mean forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV(1)) expressed as a percentage of the predicted value of FEV(1 )given the person's age, height, gender, and race (FEV(1)%) increased more in women (3.7% of predicted) than in men (1.6% of predicted) (p < 0.001). Across the 5-year follow-up period, among sustained quitters, women gained more in FEV(1)% of predicted than did men. Methacholine reactivity was more strongly related to rates of decline in women than in men (p < 0.001). Therefore, among persons at risk for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, smoking cessation has an even clearer advantage for women than it does for men.