BACKGROUND Cigarette smoking is associated with lower fecundity rates, adverse reproductive outcomes and a higher risk of IVF failures. Over the last few decades, prevalence of smoking among women of reproductive age has increased. This review focuses on current knowledge of the potential effects of smoke toxicants on all reproductive stages and the consequences of smoke exposure on reproductive functions. METHODS We conducted a systematic review of the scientific literature on the impact of cigarette smoking and smoke constituents on the different stages of reproductive function, including epidemiological, clinical and experimental studies. We attempted to create hypotheses and find explanations for the deleterious effects of cigarette smoke observed in experimental studies. RESULTS Cigarette smoke contains several thousand components (e.g. nicotine, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and cadmium) with diverse effects. Each stage of reproductive function, folliculogenesis, steroidogenesis, embryo transport, endometrial receptivity, endometrial angiogenesis, uterine blood flow and uterine myometrium is a target for cigarette smoke components. The effects of cigarette smoke are dose-dependent and are influenced by the presence of other toxic substances and hormonal status. Individual sensitivity, dose, time and type of exposure also play a role in the impact of smoke constituents on human fertility. CONCLUSIONS All stages of reproductive functions are targets of cigarette smoke toxicants. Further studies are necessary to better understand the deleterious effects of cigarette smoke compounds on the reproductive system in order to improve health care, help to reduce cigarette smoking and provide a better knowledge of the molecular mechanisms involved in reproductive toxicology.