Although considerable work has been done on the potential health effects of smoking, little is known about the contribution of nicotine to those effects. This paper presents an overview of the immune system, and a discussion of the existing literature on the effects of tobacco smoke and nicotine on immunity. Treatment with nicotine has been shown to influence all aspects of the immune system, including alterations in humoral and cellular immunity. In addition, preliminary data suggest that gender and genetic factors impact on the immunological effects of nicotine. Finally, the possible mechanisms that might mediate the effects of nicotine are discussed.