We investigated the effect of cigarette smoking on the percentage of CD4 and CD8 cells (CD4%, CD8%) within a prospective study of homosexual men in Vancouver, Canada and compared progression rates to AIDS among seroincident smokers and non-smokers. Serial measurements of CD4% and CD8% obtained from four annual visits were available for 299 men and were compared with respect to smoking status and serologic group. CD4% was significantly elevated (p less than 0.025) and CD8% was significantly lower (p less than 0.002) in seronegative smokers compared to non-smokers. However, no effect of smoking was observed in the seropositive group for either of these variables. In a prospective analysis of 122 seroincident subjects, we failed to find a significant association between smoking and progression to AIDS (p = 0.829) or Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (p = 0.894). At 72 months, cumulative AIDS progression was 29.1% in seroincident smokers compared to 25.2% in seroincident non-smokers. These data suggest that in the absence of HIV, smoking is associated with higher CD4% and lower CD8% but these effects are not present in seropositive subjects with longer durations of infection. Cigarette smoking does not appear to be associated with an altered rate of progression to AIDS.