Smoking prevention is less advanced in Germany compared with other European and North American countries, and fewer data exist, especially on the consumption habits at the individual level over time. EPIC Germany, which is part of a European multicentre study on diet and cancer, collected data on individual smoking behaviour and allows for consideration of the changing consumption pattern for both centres and different age groups. Within EPIC 25 546 and 27 548 participants, respectively, were recruited in Heidelberg and Potsdam. Data on smoking habits were collected by means of a computer-guided interview during the baseline examination between 1994 and 1998. For each birth cohort smoking prevalence and mean number of cigarettes smoked per day at different ages were calculated. Additionally, the prevalence of non-filter cigarette smoking was computed. Smoking prevalence in the 1990s was still higher among men (Heidelberg 16.3-32.3%; Potsdam 18.2-29.3%) than among women (Heidelberg 12.8-32.0%; Potsdam 10.4-27.8%). However, the percentage of women smokers was still increasing. Filter cigarettes comprised a growing percentage of the cigarettes smoked, but especially among men differences between both German cohorts can still be seen: depending on age, 10.0-12.7% of men in the Heidelberg cohort smoked non-filter cigarettes, but only 1.1-2.3% in the Potsdam cohort. The quantity smoked was higher in the Heidelberg than in the Potsdam cohort with respect to the mean number of cigarettes smoked per day as well as the pack-years of smoking. In conclusion, smoking habits in the Potsdam and the Heidelberg cohorts did not strongly differ by smoking prevalence. However, they did differ according to the quantity and quality of smoking. These differences, as well as the changes over the last 40 years may contribute to a changing pattern of diseases in different groups of the German population.