The current lack of empirical data on outdoor tobacco smoke (OTS) levels impedes OTS exposure and risk assessments. We sought to measure peak and time-averaged OTS concentrations in common outdoor settings near smokers and to explore the determinants of time-varying OTS levels, including the effects of source proximity and wind. Using five types of real-time airborne particle monitoring devices, we obtained more than 8000 min worth of continuous monitoring data, during which there were measurable OTS levels. Measurement intervals ranged from 2 sec to 1 min for the different instruments. We monitored OTS levels during 15 on-site visits to 10 outdoor public places where active cigar and cigarette smokers were present, including parks, sidewalk cafés, and restaurant and pub patios. For three of the visits and during 4 additional days of monitoring outdoors and indoors at a private residence, we controlled smoking activity at precise distances from monitored positions. The overall average OTS respirable particle concentration for the surveys of public places during smoking was approximately 30 microg m(-3). OTS exhibited sharp spikes in particle mass concentration during smoking that sometimes exceeded 1000 microg m(-3) at distances within 0.5 m of the source. Some average concentrations over the duration of a cigarette and within 0.5 m exceeded 200 microg m(-3), with some average downwind levels exceeding 500 microg m(-3). OTS levels in a constant upwind direction from an active cigarette source were nearly zero. OTS levels also approached zero at distances greater than approximately 2 m from a single cigarette. During periods of active smoking, peak and average OTS levels near smokers rivaled indoor tobacco smoke concentrations. However, OTS levels dropped almost instantly after smoking activity ceased. Based on our results, it is possible for OTS to present a nuisance or hazard under certain conditions of wind and smoker proximity.