On switching to cigarettes with lower tar and nicotine yields, most individuals smoke more intensively, but it is not clear if this effect persists over a long period. Smoking behaviour was monitored in 10 male and 18 female volunteers at five monthly visits, smoking commercially available cigarettes (tar yield greater than 10 mg), then for six more visits at 6-week intervals after switching (mean reduction of 5.9 mg tar and 0.45 mg nicotine). Puffing behaviour was monitored with a flow sensing holder, and measurements were made before and after smoking of plasma cotinine, carboxyhaemglobin and alveolar carbon monoxide. After switching, cotinine levels only fell 40% of that predicted from the fall in nicotine yields, and there were no systematic trends for the rest of the study. Puff volumes rose (reflecting perhaps the reduced draw resistance of the lower yield cigarettes), and remained higher thereafter. The number of puffs per cigarette appeared to rise on switching, but then decreased again. In conclusion, most effects of switching to lower yield cigarettes appeared to persist for at least 36 weeks, suggesting that the strategy of reducing exposure to cigarette smoke by lowering tar and nicotine yields may be of limited value.