Mainstream cigarette smoke is a complex mixture that is inhaled into the respiratory system. The physical characteristics and chemical composition of mainstream smoke are reviewed and briefly compared with that of sidestream smoke. Special attention is paid to ageing effects and artifact formation during the sampling and testing of cigarette smoke, with specific examples of artifact formation during sampling discussed (nitrogen dioxide, methyl nitrite, etc.). Historically, the generation of cigarette smoke for chemical and biological testing has been based on standard smoke generation procedures that are intended for product comparisons. More recently, emerging global regulations have called for alternative smoke generation methods, with emphasis on results relevant to conditions of product use, e.g., estimates of maximum smoke emissions. Strategies for establishing such alternative smoke generation methods are discussed and the potential effects of alternative smoking conditions on analytical accuracy and precision are addressed. Current regulatory requirements that include Hoffmann analyte analysis (i.e., constituents reported to be associated with the risks of cigarette smoking) are also summarized and the potential effect of alternative smoke generation methods on individual constituent yields considered. Finally, a limited critique of emerging regulation that relates to mainstream cigarette smoke measurements, including a discussion of recent WHO recommendations, is offered.