This opening article will review the epidemiology of the effects of cigarette smoking and other forms of tobacco exposure on human development. Sources of exposure described include cigarettes and other forms of smoked tobacco, secondhand (environmental) tobacco smoke, several forms of smokeless tobacco, and nicotine from nicotine replacement therapy. Exposure is immense and worldwide, most of it due to smoking, but in some parts of the world and in some populations, smoking is exceeded by smokeless tobacco use. Nicotine and carbon monoxide exposure are of large concern, but cigarette smoke contains over 4000 chemical constituents and additives including known carcinogens, toxic heavy metals, and many chemicals untested for developmental toxicity. The impact of tobacco on human development will be reviewed. Fertility, conception, survival of the conceptus, most phases and aspects of development studied to date, as well as postnatal survival and health are adversely impacted by maternal tobacco use or exposure. Effects in surviving offspring are probably life-long, and are still being elucidated. It is hoped that this review and those to follow in this issue will serve to keep a focus on the critical and continuing problem of tobacco use impacting human development.