This study compared stable very light smokers (VLS; less than 6 cigarettes a day) with regular smokers (RS; greater than 14 cigarettes a day) in a cohort of women followed up for 1 year. The VLS showed evidence of inhaling the cigarette smoke. They were not novice smokers, nor were they under particular pressure to limit their smoking. Among the 61 VLS, 34 had at one time smoked more than 10 cigarettes per day. These "reduced smokers" were broadly similar to the lifetime VLS, who differed from RS in several important respects. In a multiple logistic regression, education and smoking patterns in relatives were independently associated with very light versus regular smoking. Familial factors and personal resources may protect against dependence among those who use tobacco.