Peripheral blood neutrophils were harvested and exposed acutely in vitro to physiologically attainable levels of cigarette smoke. The adherence of radiolabeled neutrophils subsequently to alveolar epithelial cell monolayers was measured. In contrast to control cells, smoke-exposed neutrophils were significantly less adherent and failed to increase their adherence following stimulation with phorbol ester or f-met-leu-phe (fMLP). Flow cytometric analysis of the cell surface adhesion protein CD18 demonstrated no significant change in expression following in vitro smoke exposure and, furthermore, no increase in surface CD18 of smoke-exposed cells following consecutive fMLP stimulation was demonstrated. Acute in vivo cigarette smoking of up to 4 cigarettes also did not alter peripheral blood neutrophil CD18 expression. Cell spreading and chemokinesis, but not chemotaxis, was also impaired following in vitro smoke exposure. These data suggest that acute cigarette smoke may impair the crucial neutrophil functions of adherence and movement. However, the chronic effects of cigarette smoke exposure may clearly differ.