The impact of the tar content of cigarettes on pulmonary function was examined in 1,355 men. These men represented 383 current cigarette smokers, 555 former cigarette smokers, and 417 never smokers enrolled in longitudinal study of aging. Current smokers' cigarette exposure was estimated by the number of cigarettes smoked per day and tar content per cigarette. spirometry was performed twice on all subjects at a 5-yr interval. A multiple regression analysis indicated that tar content did not significantly influence baseline levels of forced vital capacity (FVC) or forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), after controlling for age, height, and number of cigarettes smoked. Similarly, tar content did not significantly influence follow-up levels of FVC or FEV1, after controlling for age, height, number of cigarettes, and baseline pulmonary function. These data suggest that low tar cigarettes may not protect smokers from an increased rate of decline in pulmonary function.