Several studies published within the past 10 years indicate that smoking reduces fecundity, but not all studies have found this effect, and smoking cessation is not used routinely in infertility treatment in Europe. The present study was designed to examine male and female smoking at the start of a couple's waiting time to a planned pregnancy. Two types of samples were used: population-based samples of women aged 25-44 years who were randomly selected in different countries from census registers and electoral rolls, in which the unit of analysis was the couple; and pregnancy-based samples of pregnant women (at least 20 weeks' pregnant) who were consecutively recruited during prenatal care visits, in which the unit of analysis was a pregnancy. More than 4,000 couples were included in each sample, and 10 different regions in Europe took part in data collection. The data were collected between August 1991 and February 1993 by personal interview in all population-based samples and in all but three regions of the pregnancy sample, where self-administered questionnaires were used. The results based on the population sample showed a remarkably coherent association between female smoking and subfecundity in each individual country and in all countries together, both with the first pregnancy (odds ratio (OR) = 1.7, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.3-2.1, at the upper level of exposure) and during the most recent waiting time to pregnancy (OR = 1.6, 95% CI 1.3-2.1). Results based on the pregnancy sample were similar (OR = 1.7, 95% CI 1.3-2.3). No significant association was found with male smoking (in the population sample, OR = 0.9, 95% CI 0.7-1.1 (first pregnancy) and OR = 1.0, 95% CI 0.9-1.3 (most recent waiting time); in the pregnancy sample, OR = 0.9, 95% CI 0.7-1.1). The fecundity distribution among smokers appeared to be shifted toward longer waiting times without a change in the shape of the distribution. Women who have difficulty conceiving should try to stop smoking or to reduce their smoking to less than 10 cigarettes per day.