In a biochemical investigation of human smoking behavior with filter cigarettes with high draw resistance that varied only in nicotine yield, we attempted to determine which nicotine levels provide desired nicotine intake with a minimum of physiologic and biochemical consequences. Twelve prescreened subjects were divided into two study groups and supplied with cigarettes that varied in nicotine delivery. Both groups were initially monitored while smoking their usual cigarette. At the following visit, smokers in group 1 received incremental increases and smokers in group 2 received incremental decreases in nicotine levels in assigned cigarettes. All subjects were monitored upon first exposure, after 1 week of acclimatization to each experimental cigarette, and upon return to their usual brands. Subjects in both groups were unable to compensate fully for their nicotine uptake from the lowest nicotine cigarette. In subjects in group 1, new nicotine baselines began to develop after 1 week of acclimatization to cigarettes containing 0.9 and 1.3 mg nicotine. New baseline nicotine levels were also noted in subjects receiving decreases in nicotine (group 2) after smoking the cigarette containing 1.3 mg nicotine for 1 week. Carboxyhemoglobin concentrations did not differ from those measured after the usual-brand cigarettes. Plasma cotinine concentrations increased as nicotine content per cigarette increased, except when subjects smoked a 1.3 mg nicotine cigarette. Plasma thiocyanate levels did not vary in either group. Systolic and diastolic blood pressures were generally not different from control values.