Although all forms of smoking are harmful, smoking pipes or cigars is associated with lower exposure to the lethal products of tobacco products and lower levels of morbidity and mortality than smoking cigarettes. Cytochrome P-450-1A (CYP1A) is a major pathway activating carcinogens from tobacco smoke. Our primary aim was to compare CYP1A2 activity in individuals smoking pipes or cigars only, cigarettes only and in non-smokers. We studied 30 smokers of pipes or cigars only, 28 smokers of cigarettes only, and 30 non-smokers male subjects matched for age. CYP1A2 activity was assessed as the caffeine metabolic ratio in plasma. One-day urine collection was used for determining exposure to products of tobacco metabolism. Nitrosamine and benzo[a]pyrene DNA adducts were measured in lymphocytes. CYP1A2 activity was greater (p<0.0001) in cigarette smokers (median: 0.61; interquartile range: 0.52-0.76) than in pipe or cigar smokers (0.27; 0.21-0.37) and non-smokers (0.34; 0.25-0.42) who did not differ significantly. Urinary cotinine and 1-hydroxypyrene levels were higher in cigarette smokers than in pipe or cigar smokers and higher in the later than in non-smokers. DNA adducts levels were significantly lower in pipe or cigar smokers than in cigarette smokers. In multivariate analysis, cigarette smoking was the only independent predictor of CYP1A2 activity (p<0.0001) and of 1-hydroxypyrene excretion in urine (p=0.0012). In this study, pipe or cigar smoking was associated with lower exposure to products of tobacco metabolism than cigarette smoking and to an absence of CYP1A2 induction. Cigarette smoking was the only independent predictor of CYP1A2 activity in smokers. However, inhalation behaviour, rather than the type of tobacco smoked, may be the key factor linked to the extent of tobacco exposure and CYP1A2 induction. Our results provide a reasonable explanation for the results of epidemiological studies showing pipe or cigar smoking to present fewer health hazards than cigarette smoking.