Measurement of the dose received from passive smoking complements epidemiological approaches and may provide an alternative method of estimating risk. Non-smokers absorb measurable amounts of nicotine from breathing other people's smoke, and dose-response relationships are apparent. On the basis of the limited data so far available, the dose of nicotine received by the average British non-smoker may represent about 0.5% of that of the heavy cigarette smoker, ranging up to 2% in more heavily exposed individuals. The dose of carbon monoxide appears relatively greater, as does that of tobacco-specific nitrosamines. The situation with respect to tar is unclear, but nicotine may provide a better guide than does CO.