To assess the manifestation and location of airway inflammation in smokers with chronic bronchitis (CB) or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), we lavaged the airways of 12 smokers with CB and 11 smokers with COPD and coexisting CB (OCB). For comparison, the airways of 5 asymptomatic smokers (AS) and 10 healthy nonsmokers (HNS) were lavaged. In all cases, the first lavage aliquot, labeled "bronchial lavage" (BL), was processed separately from the four subsequent aliquots, which were combined and labeled "bronchoalveolar lavage" (BAL). The composition of BL and BAL fluids indicate an ongoing inflammatory process in the airways of all three groups of smokers. CB patients with obstruction had significantly lower concentrations of inflammatory cells in the BL and BAL fluids compared with subjects with nonobstructed CB. Furthermore, airway obstruction, indicated by a reduced FEV1, was significantly correlated with the concentrations of glutathione (p < 0.001), myeloperoxidase (MPO; p < 0.01), and eosinophil cationic protein (ECP; p < 0.01) in BAL fluids. Taken together, these findings suggest that the manifestations of inflammation present in the airways of smokers with CB are different in those who have developed obstruction compared with those who have not.