Low-cost generic cigarettes grew dramatically in market share between 1990 and 1993, raising concerns that some smokers might view generics as an alternative to quitting. We report sociodemographic predictors of generic brand choice among a cross-sectional sample of California smokers and investigate changes in brand choice in a longitudinal sample of California smokers between 1990 and 1992. We also focus on brand preferences among California adolescents. One third of smokers who switched cigarette brands between 1990 and 1992 switched to generics. Non-Hispanic whites, rural residents, and lower income smokers were twice as likely to buy generics as other smokers were. Heavy cigarette consumption was strongly associated with smoking generic cigarettes. Women appeared more price-sensitive in cigarette purchasing than men did, and generic brands were the most frequently purchased cigarettes for female smokers older than age 45. Generics were less popular among adolescents than among adults. Generic cigarettes provide a low-cost alternative to price-sensitive smokers, but further studies are needed to establish the role and influence of generic cigarettes on smoking prevalence and public health. Medical Subject Headings (MeSH): smoking, smoking cessation, adolescent behavior, women, prevalence.