The relationship between cigarette yields (of nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide), puffing patterns, and smoke intake was studied by determining puffing patterns and measuring blood concentrations of nicotine and carboxy-haemoglobin (COHb) in a sample of 55 smokers smoking their usual brand of cigarette. Regression analyses showed that the total volume of smoke puffed from a cigarette was a more important determinant of peak blood nicotine concentration than the nicotine or tar yield of the cigarette, its length, or the reported number of cigarettes smoked on the test day. There was evidence of compensation for a lower tar yield over and above any compensation for nicotine. When nicotine yield was controlled for, smokers of lower-tar cigarettes not only puffed more smoke from their cigarettes than smokers of higher-tar cigarettes but they also had higher plasma nicotine concentrations, suggesting that they were compensating for the reduced delivery of tar by puffing and inhaling a greater volume of smoke. The results based on the COHb concentrations were consistent with this interpretation. If an adequate intake of tar proves to be one of the main motives for smoking, then developing a cigarette that is acceptable to smokers and also less harmful to their health will be much more difficult.