The relationship between maternal smoking and bronchial hyperresponsiveness as assessed by a standardized free running test was investigated in a cohort of 1812 primary-school children in first grade. A child's exposure to maternal smoking during pregnancy, the first year of life, and the study year was recorded. Current exposure was not positively associated with bronchial hyperresponsiveness. The prevalence of this disorder was higher when maternal smoking during the child's first year of life was reported (9%) than when it was not (5.9%). The odds of being hyperresponsive were significantly higher in children exposed to maternal smoking in their first year of life (odds ratio, 2.82; 95% confidence interval, 1.25 to 6.34; p less than 0.01), especially in children with asthma (odds ratio, 20.55; 95% confidence interval, 2.5 to 168.9; p less than 0.01). Current exposure to maternal smoking was associated with less hyperresponsiveness. The effect of current maternal smoking might reflect changes in smoking habits by mothers of children with symptoms, whereas exposure to tobacco smoke in early life might be causally related to bronchial hyperresponsiveness. Our findings support the general hypothesis that early lung injuries have an impact on the later respiratory health of children.