Inhalation of smoke generated from high-nicotine cigarettes frequently evoked an immediate augmented inspiration in conscious dogs (J. Appl. Physiol. 54: 562-570, 1983); this reflex response was believed to result from a stimulation of rapidly adapting receptors in the lungs. To test this hypothesis, we recorded the vagal afferent activity arising from the rapidly adapting receptors in the lungs and delivered 120 ml of high- and low-nicotine cigarette smoke separately in a single ventilatory cycle in 20 anesthetized open-chest and artificially ventilated dogs. These receptors were stimulated on the first breath of delivery of smoke generated by high-nicotine cigarettes: activity increased from a base line of 0.9 ± 0.2 to a peak of 9.9 ± 1.2 (SE) impulses/breath (n = 58). After three to six breaths when the receptors' discharge returned toward base-line activity, a delayed increase of activity emerged (peak activity = 3.4 ± 0.6 impulses/breath, n = 58) in 32 of the 58 receptors studied and lasted for three to seven breaths. By contrast, only a mild stimulatory effect of low-nicotine cigarette smoke was found, either immediately or after a delay, in 15 of the 54 receptors studied. We conclude that rapidly adapting receptors are stimulated by a single breath of cigarette smoke and that nicotine is the primary stimulant agent.