The acute effects of both cigarette smoking and nicotine on postprandial mouth-cecum transit were studied in 20 habitual smokers, 10 males and 10 females. Mouth-cecum transit time was measured by the breath hydrogen technique, following ingestion of a standard mixed liquid meal. Each subject was studied on four separate occasions, either (1) sham or actively smoking two standard cigarettes, commencing 20 min after the meal, or (2) chewing two placebo or nicotine tablets over a 60-min period, commencing immediately after the meal. The time of administration of these stimuli was designed to minimize the effects on mouth-cecum transit time of alterations in gastric emptying. Mouth-cecum transit time was prolonged in response to both smoking [median and interquartile range: 120 (95, 150) min vs 100 (75, 140) min, P = 0.01] and nicotine [120 (80, 170) min vs 100 (70, 140) min, P = 0.002]. No difference was observed between sexes with respect to nicotine; the effect of smoking on mouth-cecum transit time, however, was less pronounced in females compared to males [difference active-placebo: 10 (10, 20) min vs 35 (20, 60) min, P = 0.01]. We conclude that acute cigarette smoking delays mouth-cecum transit time, an effect most likely due to nicotine.