BACKGROUND Tobacco companies are focusing their interest in less developed countries. In the absence of governmental opposition, physicians are expected to lead tobacco control efforts. We studied Colombian medical students' smoking prevalence and tobacco attitudes. METHODS First- and fifth-year students from 11 medical schools in seven Colombian cities answered anonymous, self-administered, 38-item questionnaires. Additionally, smokers answered the Fagerström Test for Nicotine Dependence (FTND). RESULTS Two thousand twenty-one students (males 50.6%; age 15-44, median 19) completed the survey; average response rate was 89.9%. Globally 25.9% of students were current smokers (males 27.9%, females 24.0%). Living at higher altitude and attending private universities were associated with higher prevalence (P < 0.001). Males had a higher chance of having given up smoking (P < 0.05); 91.3% of current smokers would like to quit; 67.3% of all smokers and 44.8% of daily smokers scored 0 in the FTND. Prevalence was similar among first- and fifth-years, but fifth-year students were more complacent with smoking in health centers and showed a lesser desire to quit. CONCLUSIONS Medical students' smoking prevalence is similar to that of the general population. Tobacco control strategies need to be included in the curriculum. Nicotine addiction does not seem to be the main perpetuating factor.