The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of different levels of cigarette smoking on lipid peroxidation, glutathione enzymes and paraoxonase 1 (PON1) activity in a healthy population. The study included 130 subjects who were classified as mild (<= 10 cigarettes daily, Group I, n=30), moderate (11-20 cigarettes daily, Group 11, n=35), heavy (>20 cigarettes daily, Group III, n=33) and never smokers (controls, Group IV, n=32). Malondialdehyde (MDA) levels, PON1 and erythrocyte glutathione enzyme activities were measured. MDA levels were significantly higher in smokers than never smokers (P<0.05 for Group I, P<0.001 for Group II and III). PON1 activity was significantly lower in heavy smokers (P<0.001). Glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px) activity was significantly lower in the smokers (P<0.0001). Glutathione reductase (GR) activity was significantly higher in smokers (P<0.0001). MDA levels negatively correlated with PON1 and GSH-PX activities (P<0.01), whereas they positively correlated with GR activities (P<0.001). At every level, cigarette smoking is associated with increased lipid peroxidation and causes an impairment in antioxidant systems.