Since most heavy drinkers do not develop alcoholic cirrhosis, other causes or predisposing factors are probable. The authors studied traits of 128,934 adults who underwent health examinations at the Oakland and San Francisco, California, facilities of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program from January 1978 to December 1985 in relation to subsequent hospitalization or death from cirrhosis of the liver. In analyses adjusted for nine covariates, past and current alcohol drinking were strongly related to cirrhosis risk, but usual choice of alcoholic beverage had no independent relation. Cigarette smoking was independently related to risk of alcoholic cirrhosis, with cigarette smokers of a pack or more per day at trebled risk compared with lifelong nonsmokers. Coffee drinking, but not tea drinking, was inversely related to alcoholic cirrhosis risk, with persons who drank four or more cups per day at one-fifth the risk of noncoffee drinkers. This inverse relation between coffee consumption and risk of alcoholic cirrhosis was consistent in many subsets, including persons free of gastrointestinal disease and those with 5 or more years before hospitalization or death. Cigarette smoking and coffee consumption were not consistently related to risk of hospitalization or death for nonalcoholic cirrhosis. These data could mean that cigarette smoking promotes alcoholic cirrhosis and that coffee drinking might be protective.