This study was designed to examine the extent to which smokers would compensate for the dilution of smoke produced by ventilated cigarette holders. Peak plasma nicotine and carboxyhemoglobin levels were measured in 18 smokers when they had been smoking normally and when they had been using holders which dilute the smoke by about 20% (holder 1) and 60% (holder 2) for periods of 2 days and 7 days. Comparison of the observed blood levels with the "expected" levels estimated from the dilution factors of the holders showed that subjects partially compensated on holder 2 but showed little or no compensation on holder 1. There were no changes in the number of cigarettes smoked when using the holders so any compensation achieved must have been due to increasing the intake from each cigarette. There was wide individual variation in the amount of compensation with about 50% of subjects compensating fairly consistently on both holders. Degree of compensation was not significantly associated with usual cigarette consumption, plasma nicotine and carboxyhemoglobin levels when smoking without a holder, the nicotine yields of the subjects' cigarettes, or the experience of withdrawal symptoms and the degree of satisfaction when using the holders. It cannot be determined from this study whether the compensation observed was mediated by a need to regulate the intake of nicotine rather than some other factor.