To investigate the effect of smoking status on pulmonary function and pathologic changes in the peripheral airways, we studied 97 patients who underwent thoracotomy for coin lesions. The patients were divided into 4 groups: nonsmokers (n = 9), current smokers (n = 51), and those who had ceased smoking for less than (n = 18) or more than (n = 19) 2 yr prior to surgery. We found that current smokers had evidence of air-flow obstruction with abnormal lung volumes when compared with nonsmokers. Ex-smokers had lung volumes similar to those of nonsmokers, but showed evidence of obstruction, with the FEV1/FVC between the values found for nonsmokers and current smokers. Examination of the small airways showed that the membranous bronchioles of current smokers and ex-smokers displayed only increased goblet cell metaplasia when compared with those in nonsmokers; the respiratory bronchioles of current and ex-smokers showed increases in intraluminal and airway wall inflammatory cells, wall fibrosis, and pigment deposition. We conclude that patients who currently smoke cigarettes have reduced lung function that is associated with abnormalities of airway structure. Although those who have stopped smoking have function that is closer to the nonsmoking group, there is no apparent difference in structural change between current and ex-smokers.