Numerous approaches have been employed for testing the biological activity of cigarette smoke in vitro. None of them has managed to expose cultured lung cells in a realistic manner to the complex gaseous and particulate mixture that constitutes cigarette smoke. We have devised a system that makes this possible. The system presented here enables the direct exposure of human lung cells to native, unmodified cigarette mainstream smoke. It consists of a smoking machine, a dilution device for the smoke, analytical devices for online monitoring and a specially adapted exposure module based on the Cultex** cell cultivation system that is equipped with a gas-exposure top. Due to the special design of the exposure device and the optimised exposure conditions, this equipment allows cultured human lung cells to be exposed to freshly generated cigarette mainstream smoke. Exploratory experiments revealed that the smoke could be diluted over a wide concentration range in a reproducible way with respect to gas and particulate phases, and also demonstrated reproducible particle deposition depending on smoke concentration. Furthermore, it was shown that the exposed cells maintained their viability. Native cigarette mainstream smoke induced dose-dependent cellular effects in exposed cells with respect to cellular viability (viable cell number monitored by tetrazolium salt cleavage) and intracellular parameters (ATP and glutathione content). Therefore, fresh, physically and chemically unmodified cigarette mainstream smoke can be tested using this novel system.