From 1975 through 1984, expenditures by cigarette companies related to the distribution of free cigarette samples increased from $24.2 million to $148.0 million. When adjusted by the consumer price index, expenditures increased more than three-fold. During this period, the proportion of total cigarette advertising and promotional expenditures devoted to sampling increased from 4.9% to 7.1%. To evaluate the degree to which free cigarette samples are distributed to children and adolescents, we surveyed 141 elementary students and 223 high school students in five schools in Chicago in April 1982. We also surveyed a sample of 88 students enrolled at DePaul University in Chicago. Fifty (14%) of the 364 elementary and high school students reported having received free cigarette samples themselves, including six (4%) of the elementary students and 44 (20%) of the high school students. Approximately half of the elementary and high school students, and 28% of the college students, said they had seen children and adolescents receive free cigarette samples. More than three-fourths of the elementary and high school students were opposed to the distribution of free cigarette samples. Seventy-four percent of the college students, including 70% of current smokers, supported an ordinance that would ban cigarette sampling. These data provide evidence that the cigarette industry's voluntary code against distributing free cigarette samples to minors is not being strictly followed. Legislation prohibiting cigarette sampling, which at least 12 cities have adopted, is an effective way to prevent the distribution of free cigarettes to minors.