Epidemiological evidence suggests that smoking is a major cause of human lung cancer. However, the mechanism by which cigarette smoke induces the cancer remains obscure, although in tobacco carcinogenesis, promotion and/or co-carcinogenesis may have crucial roles. The epidemiological data show that if an individual stops smoking, the risk of his contracting lung cancer increases no further. Moreover, laboratory experiments show that cigarette smoke condensate (CSC) exhibits co-carcinogenic and promoting activities in tumour production and malignant transformation. Clastogenic action is thought to be intimately involved in tumour promotion, and it is therefore interesting that visible chromosome changes such as chromosome aberrations and sister chromatid exchanges are known to be caused by cigarette smoke. However, there has been no previous direct demonstration that cigarette smoke can cause single-strand breaks (SSB) in DNA. Here we report that cigarette smoke induces considerable numbers of DNA SSB in cultured human cells, and that such strand breaks may be ascribed to active oxygen generated from cigarette smoke.