The data of the 1981-83 Swiss National Health Survey "SOMIPOPS", based on a randomly selected sample of 4,235 individuals aged 20 or over representative of the whole Swiss population, were used to investigate the relation between smoking, prevalence of disease and frequency of health care utilization. The risks of several conditions, including hypertension, myocardial infarction and other heart diseases, asthma, tuberculosis and kidney disease were elevated among ex-smokers. The diseases showing elevated risks among current smokers and significantly positive dose-risk trends included acute bronchitis (relative risk, RR = 3.2 for heavy cigarette smokers vs never smokers), chronic bronchitis or lung emphysema (RR = 2.0), gastro-duodenal ulcer (RR = 1.8) and bone fractures (RR = 1.6). For respiratory conditions, the risk of pipe or cigar smokers was comparable to that of moderate cigarette smokers, whereas for ulcer (RR = 4.1) or fractures (RR = 2.0) the point estimates were even higher than for heavy cigarette smokers. Smokers tended to consult more frequently general practitioners, used more other outpatients services, and were more frequently admitted to hospital during the year preceding the interview. These effects were consistent across strata of age, socio-economic indicators, and persisted after allowance for major identified potential distorting factors. Thus, the results of this survey confirm that smoking is an important cause of morbidity and a major contributory factor to the use of health services.