This study examined the effect of cigarette smoking parameters such as intensity, duration, age at initiation, and quitting on the development of different histological types of lung cancer in men. We used data from a case-control study conducted in Philadelphia between 1985 and 1987. Cases included 482 men with histologically confirmed lung cancer diagnosed in 15 selected hospitals in Philadelphia. Controls were selected from a neighborhood survey of men in Philadelphia conducted concurrently to the case recruitment. Most aspects of smoking were associated with all the major histological types of lung cancer. Number of cigarettes smoked per day was the strongest predictor of risk of developing lung cancer. Early age at initiation of smoking significantly increased the risk of small cell carcinoma (odds ratio = 3.0; 95% CI, 1.1-8.4). Quitting smoking reduced the risk of squamous cell and adenocarcinoma; however, it did not affect the risk of small cell lung cancer. The findings of this study suggest the need for greater emphasis on smoking prevention programs, especially in adolescents.