The axial distribution of nicotine along the hair shafts was examined in 21 subjects enrolled in a placebo-controlled, double-blind trial of nicotine chewing gum (Nicorette) for validating their self-reported smoking behavior and their physicians' assessments. Hair samples obtained from the subjects once during the 3-month follow-up period (n = 10 for placebo and n = 11 for Nicorette ad libitum) were analyzed for the cm x cm distribution of nicotine along the hair shafts. Hair analysis results were compared with the monthly self-reports and with the plasma concentrations of thiocyanate (SCN-) measured at 1-month intervals. A gradual decrease in nicotine content along the hair shafts generally corresponded to the decrease in self-reported number of cigarettes smoked daily by the subjects who reported that they abstained from smoking or decreased the number of daily cigarettes in placebo and nicotine chewing gum groups. Because nicotine may dissociate slowly from hair follicle cells, nicotine in the hair did not mark a sudden decrease or cessation of smoking and, therefore, hair analysis tended to underestimate the real decrease of smoking. However, physician assessment seemed to depend solely on self-reporting because the time profile of changes in serum SCN- concentration did not correspond necessarily to the changes in the self-reported number of cigarettes used daily.