Exposure to passive smoke is a very common event associated with increased susceptibility to respiratory tract infections. Many related adverse effects result from the ability of cigarette smoke extracts to interfere with the immune system, but the mechanism is not yet completely understood. The aim of the present study is to evaluate the intracellular cytokine profile in adenoids and peripheral blood cells of children exposed to passive smoke. Children undergoing adenoidectomy exposed or not exposed to passive smoke were studied. The intracellular cytokine profile of lymphocyte subsets in adenoids and in peripheral blood were evaluated by flow cytometry analysis. Children exposed to tobacco smoke showed a significantly lower percentage of INF-gamma producing CD4+ and CD8+ cells in adenoids. Moreover a significant correlation was observed between the quantity of exposure and reduction in Th1 (CD4+INFgamma+ and CD8+INFgamma+) cells in adenoids. This reduction may be a contributing factor in the increasing susceptibility to respiratory tract infection in children exposed to tobacco smoke.