Chromosomal abnormalities are commonly found in bronchogenic carcinoma cells, but the molecular causes of chromosomal instability (CIN) and their relationship to cigarette smoke has not been defined. Because the Fanconi anaemia (FA)/BRCA pathway is essential for maintenance of chromosomal stability, we tested the hypothesis that cigarette smoke suppresses that activity of this pathway. Here, we show that cigarette smoke condensate (CSC) inhibited translation of FANCD2 mRNA (but not FANCC or FANCG) in normal airway epithelial cells and that this suppression of FANCD2 expression was sufficient to induce both genetic instability and programmed cell death in the exposed cell population. Cigarette smoke condensate also suppressed FANCD2 function and induced CIN in bronchogenic carcinoma cells, but these cells were resistant to CSC-induced apoptosis relative to normal airway epithelial cells. We, therefore, suggest that CSC exerts pressure on airway epithelial cells that results in selection and emergence of genetically unstable somatic mutant clones that may have lost the capacity to effectively execute an apoptotic programme. Carcinogen-mediated suppression of FANCD2 gene expression provides a plausible molecular mechanism for CIN in bronchogenic carcinogenesis.