Acute physiological and chronic pathological responses of the respiratory tract to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) are reviewed briefly. This study excludes discussion of the possible risk of lung cancer and the known impact of carbon monoxide on the fetus and adult. In some environments, the dose of particulate matter and the concentrations of irritant vapors absorbed on the ETS particles reach a level for which a physiological response may be expected, not only in the nose but also the bronchi. However, direct measurements indicate only small increases of nasal and bronchial resistance if normal subjects are exposed to maximal, likely concentrations of ETS. ETS is readily detected by the nonsmoker, but there is no strong evidence that pulmonary reactions have a psychogenic basis. The condition of approximately 20% of asthmatic patients is exacerbated by ETS exposure. Further study is needed to clarify the likelihood that adults will progress from a minor physiological response to pathological reactions, e.g., chronic obstructive lung disease. In young children (who are less able to escape from ETS), the association between exposure and an increase in respiratory disease is stronger than in adults. Exacerbation of asthma and an increase of respiratory disease are further arguments for legislation to guarantee smoke-free air to the nonsmoking public.