The influence of continued cigarette smoking on restenosis after percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) was retrospectively determined through a study of 160 patients with primary success who underwent follow-up angiography after a mean of 7 +/- 7 months. The average number of narrowings at risk for restenosis was 1.7/patient in the 84 patients who continued to smoke (group 1) and 1.9/patient in the 76 patients who stopped smoking at the time of PTCA (group 2) (difference not significant). The 2 patient groups at baseline were similar with respect to gender, frequency of diabetes mellitus, number of pack/year smoking, angina class and number of diseased coronary arteries. The location of the dilated narrowings, the residual luminal diameter stenosis and the transstenotic gradient after the procedure were similar in both groups. The recurrence of angina greater than or equal to class II was the reason for restudy in 43% and 36% of group 1 and group 2 patients, respectively. Restenosis, defined as the presence of greater than or equal to 50% narrowing at the site of previous successful dilatation at follow-up angiography, was significantly higher in group 1 compared with group 2 patients (55% vs 38%, p = 0.03). Continued smoking was selected as an independent predictor of restenosis by logistic regression analysis. The incidence of coronary artery disease progression (14% vs 10%) was not significantly different between the 2 groups. In conclusion, continued smoking after successful PTCA is associated with an increased risk of restenosis. The higher restenosis rate in smokers emphasizes the need to strengthen educational programs after PTCA.