In an open, randomized, three-way crossover study, 14 healthy smokers used one type of nicotine vapor inhaler intensely for 20 minutes every hour for 11 hours (12 administrations). Two different inhalation techniques were applied, shallow frequent sucking (buccal mode) and deep inhalations (pulmonary mode). The determination of nicotine was performed by capillary gas chromatography after single-step liquid-liquid extraction of the plasma sample. Nicotine was detected by means of a nitrogen-sensitive detector, giving high selectivity and sensitivity. The mean (+/- SD) nicotine dose released from each nicotine vapor inhaler unit was estimated at 4.00 +/- 0.60 mg (buccal mode) and 3.87 +/- 0.75 mg (pulmonary mode), inhaled with approximately 15 L of air. Mean (+/- SD) peak plasma level of the last dosing interval was 32.0 +/- 8.7 ng/ml and 34.2 +/- 8.9 ng/ml for the buccal and the pulmonary technique, respectively, achieved after 0.33 and 0.50 (median) hour, respectively. The mean (95% confidence interval [CI]) absolute bioavailability of nicotine was 51 (95% CI, 40 to 65) and 56 (95% CI, 47 to 67) when the buccal and pulmonary techniques were used, respectively. A significant correlation was found between systemically available dose and average steady-state nicotine plasma concentration. Based on the achievement of similar nicotine plasma levels, it may be concluded that the two modes of inhalation appear to be clinically equivalent.