4-(Methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol plus its glucuronides (total NNAL), metabolites of the lung carcinogen NNK, and total cotinine, metabolites of nicotine, are biomarkers of active and passive cigarette smoking. We calculated the total NNAL:total cotinine (×10(3)) ratio in 408 passive (infants, children, and adults) and 1088 active smokers. The weighted averages were 0.73 (95% confidence interval 0.71, 0.76) for passive smokers and 0.07 (0.06, 0.08) for active smokers (p < 0.0001). These results demonstrate that cotinine measurements may underestimate exposure of passive smokers to the lung carcinogen NNK in second-hand cigarette smoke. The total NNAL:total cotinine (×10(3)) ratio may provide an improved biomarker for evaluating the health effects of passive smoking.